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Severe storms to hammer Midwest, Plains and parts of East

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 7/15/2020 Alex Sosnowski

Potentially dangerous, damaging and disruptive storms will erupt on a daily basis across portions of the central and eastern United States through Friday along the edge of a searing mass of hot and humid air spreading eastward across the country this week.

At least 40 million Americans may face severe weather dangers through Thursday. Severe weather will focus on a heavily populated and traveled area of the Midwest through Thursday evening as storms are forecast to erupt over parts of the southern Plains Thursday night. Thunderstorms will then advance eastward over the Ohio Valley, eastern Great Lakes and central Appalachians on Friday.

Hard-hit New England will catch a brief break from heavy storms into at least Thursday, after storms pelted the region with intense hail, winds and flash flooding earlier this week.

"Stretches of interstates 44, 55, 64, 70 and 80 over the middle Mississippi Valley will be the prime zone for violent storms from Thursday afternoon through Thursday evening," Senior AccuWeather Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker said.

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This includes the cities of St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri, and Chicago and Peoria, Illinois.

"St. Louis may be in the crosshairs, while Chicago and Milwaukee may be on the northern edge of the severe weather," Walker said.

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"But, the severe weather is likely to survive and push into western and central portions of Indiana, including Indianapolis and Terre Haute, during Thursday night," he added.

The full spectrum of severe weather could occur with the storms that ignite into Thursday evening over the Midwest. Any storm will be capable of producing strong wind gusts, hail, torrential downpours and frequent lightning strikes. Some of the strongest storms, however, can bring wind gusts as high as 75 mph, which is as strong as a hurricane. A small number of the most intense storms may also spawn a tornado.

A few heavy-duty storms are also anticipated as far north as northern Michigan, and they will once again dot parts of the Southeastern states.

Farther southwest, late afternoon and evening thunderstorms will develop and become heavy and gusty over the Front Range of the Rockies in southern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico on Thursday.

"As these storms push eastward Thursday night they will likely organize into a large complex of severe weather over the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma Panhandle, and portions of western Oklahoma," Walker said.

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"Damaging wind gusts, large hail and flash flooding are expected with the strongest storms over the southern Plains, but a few tornadoes cannot be ruled out early on Thursday night," Walker added.

Farther to the northeast during Thursday afternoon and evening, a swath of heavy, gusty and isolated severe thunderstorms are anticipated from the middle Mississippi Valley through the Ohio Valley and on into the eastern Great Lakes and parts of the central Appalachians.

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The greatest threats will be from downpours that can overwhelm neighborhood storm drains and cause small streams to spill out of their banks. The strongest storms can produce strong wind gusts with and without heavy rain that can knock over trees and cause sporadic power outages.

The storms on Thursday will affect cities from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to Evansville, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky; Cincinnati; Huntington, West Virginia; Pittsburgh; and Buffalo, New York.

A few isolated heavy storms will also rumble over the Southeastern states, especially during the afternoon and evening hours on Thursday.

On Friday, locally heavy storms could affect much of the East Coast and parts of the South, but the greatest risk of violent storms on a regional basis will jump thousands of miles farther to the northwest as a new cycle of severe weather begins.

a close up of a map © Provided by AccuWeather

Storms during Friday afternoon and night are likely to target areas from the Dakotas to Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin and parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Nebraska and northwestern Iowa.

The storm threat will not stop at the northern border of the U.S. but will also affect much of central and southern Manitoba, including Winnipeg, as well as southeastern Saskatchewan and part of northwestern Ontario.

As has been the case with severe weather much of this week, the full spectrum of threats is likely with any storms on Friday, including hurricane-force wind gusts and the potential for a few isolated tornadoes.

People are encouraged to move indoors at the first rumble of thunder. Picnic pavilions and golf carts do not offer adequate protection from lightning, but a hard-top car or truck is considered safe if a building is not nearby. Experts recommend avoiding standing near trees, which extend well above the landscape and are often the closest target for lightning.

Motorists are urged to never drive through flooded roads as the water may be deeper than it appears or may still be rising, and to instead keep the National Weather Service slogan "turn around, don't drown" in mind. In some cases, the road surface may have been washed away beneath the water.

Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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