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Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes threaten Plains over the weekend

Severe storm warnings have been issued for parts of Nebraska and Kansas, and the storm could spread to Oklahoma City by early Monday. Residents are bracing for heavy downpours and potentially strong winds. TODAY's Dylan Dreyer reports.

The start of tornado season was late but deadly, and now severe weather with the potential for twisters threatens parts of the Plains and Midwest -- including major cities -- heading into the weekend, forecasters said.

Severe thunderstorms looked likely to build over the Plains through the weekend and into Monday. There is some chance of tornadoes developing, the channel said, as moist air from the Gulf of Mexico meets a jet stream moving eastward from the Rocky Mountains.

Late afternoon thunderstorms were expected to move in over Oklahoma City and Kansas City on Sunday, Weather Channel meteorologist Michael Palmer said. More severe thunderstorms were predicted to build over St. Louis and Springfield, Mo. on Monday, he reported.

Millions of Americans in the Central Plains need to be on the alert for dangerous storms this weekend. Sunday is expected to bring the most severe weather. The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel reports.

As many as 16 tornadoes struck northern Texas on Wednesday evening, leveling homes in the towns of Granbury and Cleburne and claiming the lives of six adults. One of the twisters was preliminarily classified EF-4 by the National Weather Service, meaning its winds reached speeds of 160 to 200 miles per hour.

Overall, tornadic activity has been slow this May, typically the month when twisters do some of their worst damage, said the Weather Channel’s Tom Moore.

“We’ve had a shortened season, so to speak,” Moore said, mostly due to blasts of cold air that brought a late chill to central parts of the country.

Any twisters that develop over the Plains on Saturday are likely to form in remote regions, but the foul weather could move closer to cities on Sunday, covering a wide swath from Oklahoma City and Tulsa to Joplin, Mo., and Springfield, Mo.

“I suspect that there will be some tornadoes on Sunday,” Moore said. “There’s a slight chance it could grow a little bit of a tail, that it could get down to Dallas and Fort Worth.”

Hail as large as two inches in diameter could fall from northwestern parts of Oklahoma to North Dakota on Saturday, moving into Kansas, Missouri, and Minnesota on Sunday, the Weather Channel said. The severe weather was slow moving but expected to head further eastward into the later part of next week.