Nation

Huge System Of Storms Predicted To March East From Midwest

NPR | June 12, 2013 6:03 p.m.

Contributed By:

Bill Chappell

A map shows the chance of severe thunderstorms Wednesday evening, with the National Weather Service predicting strong winds and storms moving eastward to the mid-Atlantic Thursday.

A map shows the chance of severe thunderstorms Wednesday evening, with the National Weather Service predicting strong winds and storms moving eastward to the mid-Atlantic Thursday.

NOAA

The National Weather Service warns of a massive storm system that will make its way eastward from Iowa to Maryland in the next 24 hours, as strong winds, thunderstorms, and hail are predicted to hit areas from the upper Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic beginning Wednesday and continuing Thursday.

The weather service’s Storm Prediction Center is predicting “widespread damaging winds and a few strong tornadoes” in parts of the middle Mississippi Valley, the upper Ohio Valley and lower Great Lakes area Wednesday evening.

The system “could affect one in five Americans on Wednesday,” as the storm passes through one of America’s most densely populated areas, the AP says.

The storm center’s meteorologists say that with time, the storms “are expected to develop into a fast-moving squall line with the primary threats being widespread damaging winds and embedded tornadoes. A few wind gusts in excess of 75 mph will be possible as the line of thunderstorms moves rapidly east across the southern Great Lakes and Ohio valley region this evening.”

For many, that description — of a line of powerful winds moving across a broad swath of America — has brought to mind last summer’s derecho, the name for a storm that moves in a straight line with wind gusts that hit at least 58 mph. Derecho wind speeds can soar well over that threshold; the strongest gusts recorded have exceeded 120 miles per hour.

To be deemed a derecho, the system would also have to cause damage across an area at least 240 miles wide.

Derechos are “notoriously difficult to forecast,” the National Weather Service says. The storms also move quickly, leaving little time for those in its path to prepare themselves or move to safety.

The Storm Prediction Center issued a tornado watch for parts of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin late Wednesday, describing what it calls “a particularly dangerous situation.”

The tornado watch was to remain in place for those areas until at least 9 p.m. CDT. Forecasters say that hail may be as wide as three inches across.

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