By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A strong storm system, with high winds and torrential rain, is taking shape in the south central United States this weekend and threatens to produce tornadoes, which have been relatively uncommon so far this year, forecasters said on Friday.
The storm is expected to develop in north central Texas on Saturday and move through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and possibly Nebraska by Sunday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
"We are going to get a lot of moisture out of the Gulf of Mexico, strong winds and heat," said meteorologist Mike July, with the National Weather Service in Kansas City. "It all mixes a stew for storms to really work with."
The threat of tornadoes appears to be strongest in Kansas and Missouri and will dissipate as the system moves east by late Sunday or Monday, said July.
Only 109 tornadoes have been reported in the United States through April 24, less than a quarter of the yearly average of 451 by that date, according to data kept by the weather service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
No tornado deaths have been reported in the United States so far this year, compared with three through April last year, 66 in 2012 and 365 in 2011, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
More severe weather is expected in the weeks to come, said Jonathan Kurtz, a weather service meteorologist in Norman. "It's spring in the Plains and this happens every year," he said.
A lesser storm front is expected to hit the Mid-Atlantic states Friday afternoon with thunderstorms, damaging winds, large hail and possibly a few tornadoes, the National Weather Service said.
(Reporting By Kevin Murphy; Editing by David Bailey and Gunna Dickson)