A destructive, dangerous and historic December day is ahead for Wednesday, with all weather hazards possible including strong and long-track tornadoes, high winds and explosive wildfires.
Approximately 100 million people were under some kind of weather alert stretching from the West Coast to the Great Lakes.
On Wednesday morning, 9 million people were under the risk for severe storms across portions of the central Plains and Upper Midwest. The main risks were anticipated to be damaging winds in excess of 75 mph, followed by the threat for long-track and strong tornadoes.
Two factors compound the danger level: storms after dark and the forward speed of the storms.
For cities like Kansas City, Missouri; Des Moines, Iowa; and Minneapolis, the storms were expected to arrive after sunset. Nocturnal tornadoes are more than twice as likely to cause fatalities.
On top of that, the storms are expected to be moving as fast as 80 mph. That means people in the path should prepare now because the storms will approach fast.
Wednesday's storm and tornado threat was the highest winter severe risk in 20 years and simply unheard of for mid-December. In fact, Minnesota has zero confirmed tornadoes on record during the month of December going back to 1950.
The National Weather Service there has never issued a tornado watch or warning during the month of December.
There’s 4 to 8 inches of snow on the ground underneath a large portion of Wednesday's tornado threat. The rare overlap of the tornado risk over deep snow cover leaves meteorologists wondering how the snow cover could either limit or enhance the tornado potential.
This rare December tornado threat comes on the heels of the historic tornado outbreak that struck Friday.
While the severe thunderstorm and tornado risk could be the most life-threatening and deadly, the risk for damaging winds will be the most widespread.
About 89 million people were under wind alerts Wednesday stretching from eastern Arizona to upstate New York. This is expected to be a rare wind event both for the ferocity of the winds expected and the widespread nature of the event.
Through Wednesday night, winds could gust 60 to 80 mph for areas under the wind alerts. Widespread power outages are expected.
Denver and surrounding areas were forecast to gust as high as 100 mph.
The strong winds will act as the match for the wildfire risk Wednesday where 10 million people are under red flag warnings across the central Plains. Record warm temperatures in the 70s and 80s combined with low humidity will lay the conditions conducive to wildfires.
The extremely critical wildfire risk in place for portions of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas is the highest wildfire risk issued during the month of December going back to 1999.
Highs 20 to 40 degrees above average Wednesday will lead to more than 40 record highs across the Plains and Upper Midwest. All-time record highs could be challenged for places like Kansas City and Des Moines. Other locations that could set record highs Wednesday include Austin, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Minneapolis; Chicago; Madison, Wisconsin; and Milwaukee.
On Thursday, another 30 record highs will be possible farther east across portions of the Great Lakes and Northeast including for locations like Boston; Buffalo, New York; Syracuse, New York; New York City; and Providence, Rhode Island.