'Texas hooker' low-pressure system may lead to blizzard, tornadoes in Midwest, East

Millions of people will be impacted by storms

A Texas hooker is about to cause a lot of headaches.

The relatively infrequent weather phenomenon that also goes by the name "panhandle hook" or "hooker" will affect millions of people on Thursday evening. This type of low-pressure system got its unique name because of the location it forms and the path it travels.

A panhandle hook usually forms over the panhandle of Texas and Oklahoma, travels a little to the southeast and then treks northeast toward the Great Lakes region, taking a path that resembles a hook. Storms like this have been responsible for some memorable blizzards as well as severe thunderstorm outbreaks, and this one looks like it won’t be much different.

As the particular low moves closer to the Great Lakes, it’s expected to strengthen significantly, thanks to the strong support in the upper levels. When a low intensifies this quickly, a sharp pressure gradient is created, causing strong winds, the main ingredient for a blizzard.

The blizzard conditions are expected in northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota where the National Weather Service has already issued a blizzard warning from 8 a.m. Thursday until 5 a.m. Friday, Mountain Time.  Some areas could see up to a foot of snow and when it starts blowing around because of the 20 to 30 mph sustained winds, that’s a recipe for low visibility and blizzard conditions.

Farther south, especially south of Interstate 70 where it’ll be warmer and there’s less snow pack to prohibit instability, they’re looking at severe weather. The greatest threat will be in western Kentucky and northwest Tennessee, but an area spanning from Louisiana up to Ohio still falls within the Storm Prediction Center’s 15-percent probability for severe weather.

The biggest threats with this outbreak will be straight-line winds, since this system is likely to cause multiple squall lines. A few isolated tornadoes can’t be ruled out Thursday, but most of the damage we’re likely to see will come from straight-line winds.

Jason Meyers is a digital meteorologist for the E.W. Scripps Company and may be found on twitter via @jasonmeyerswx and representing Storm Shield, @StormShieldApp.