Severe weather is forecast to slam portions of the central and southern Plains on Saturday. On this map, areas in light blue and purple are under the greatest risk for tornadoes, hail and high winds. This area includes the cities of Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kan. (image courtesy NOAA/AP/USA Today)
Washington, DC (by Doyle Rice/USA Today) -- While the East warms up and the West cools down this weekend, severe thunderstorms and potentially strong, damaging tornadoes are forecast to hammer portions of the central USA.
Meteorologists from both AccuWeather and weather.com are describing the Plains outbreak Saturday as a "life-threatening" situation.
About 5.5 million people live in the highest risk area, reports Russ Schneider, director of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
Thunderstorms are expected to pound much of the central USA both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, the chance for severe storms, including tornadoes, stretches all the way from southern Wisconsin to western Texas.
Large hail and damaging winds are also threats from this outbreak.
The greatest chance for severe weather Saturday is in central Kansas and central Oklahoma, where the Storm Prediction Center has placed the area under "high risk" for tornadoes. Cities such as Oklahoma City, Wichita Falls, Topeka and Wichita are all under the gun for bad weather.
The worst of the weather will be in late afternoon and early evening, Schneider says.
According to AccuWeather.com chief meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "The risk is about as high as it gets."
Sunday, severe storms are again possible from Wisconsin to Texas.
Along with the threat of severe weather, the thunderstorms will also produce drenching rain throughout the Midwest and around the Great Lakes both weekend days.