Severe storms to prowl across Midwest, East and South amid springlike warmth


The weather is warming up and feeling like spring, but Americans who live in parts of the Midwest, East and South will face heavy, gusty and occasionally severe thunderstorms through the middle of the week.

Some of the thunderstorms will not only pose a risk for those seeking an escape outdoors to take a walk, jog or hike while social distancing, but they can also become dangerous for outdoor triage centers and testing facilities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This photo provided by Tim Creedon shows his baseball and a hailstone that fell in the backyard of Creedon's home in Ottawa, Ill., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. A small number of the storms from Tuesday through Wednesday have the potential to produce hail close to this size. (Tim Creedon via AP)

Even though warmer air was surging northward across much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation on Tuesday, the air high above the ground was cooling over much of the region. This creates an unstable atmosphere and an ideal setup for thunderstorms. A couple of disturbances will ride along a temperature boundary strething across the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic and can act as triggers, so all of the ingredients are present for severe weather to ignite.

The vast majority of these areas will not have severe weather and under one third of the risk area may actually experience a thunderstorm, but some communities can be slammed with dramatic and violent weather conditions.


Mother Nature was already dropping hints at some of the trouble spots and which areas may stay quiet into Tuesday night. During Tuesday morning, locally heavy and gusty thunderstorms rumbled from eastern Minnesota and northern Michigan to West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. As the thunderstorms move south and east, some could turn feisty as the afternoon warmth peaks.

"More storms will develop across the central Appalachians and into the mid-Atlantic during Tuesday afternoon and evening," AccuWeather Senior Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker said. "A small number of these storms can bring large hail with localized damaging wind gusts."

Rain showers (green) and thunderstorms (yellow, orange and red) were pressing across portions of the Midwest and interior Northeast early Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (AccuWeather)

Any of the storms from the central Appalachians to the mid-Atlantic into Tuesday evening can unleash brief gusty winds and sudden downpours.

Another area where heavy, gusty and locally isolated severe storms can occur will be Mississippi and Alabama into Tuesday evening.

Ahead of a push of much colder air, a more general area of heavy to severe thunderstorms is anticipated to slice across the Midwest.

"Storms are likely to erupt and peak over the southern Great Lakes and Ohio Valley during Tuesday night to Wednesday morning with large hail and flash flooding being the greatest threats," Walker said.

The storms could produce hail to the size of golf balls and tennis balls.

"The area from northern Indiana and the southern part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan to northern Ohio has the potential to be a hotspot for big hail late Tuesday to Tuesday night," Blake Naftel, AccuWeather reporter and storm chaser said, adding that there could even be some hail up to the size of tennis balls.

The storms in the Midwest can stir up localized damaging wind gusts. The strongest of the severe thunderstorms will be capable of spawning an isolated tornado, but the setup over the Midwest does not appear to be conducive for multiple tornadoes into early Wednesday, according to forecasters.

During late Wednesday and Wednesday night, the risk of severe thunderstorms is likely to focus from the lower Ohio Valley to the middle Mississippi and Tennessee valleys.

"Storms that develop late Wednesday in this part of the Central states will quickly become severe, with the greatest potential impact being damaging wind gusts, large hail and flash flooding," Walker said.

"Like that of Tuesday, the potential for more than an isolated tornado remains low," he added.

There may also be a few big storms that erupt in parts of central and eastern Texas during Wednesday afternoon and evening. Storms in this area will have the potential to produce up to moderate-sized hail, which could grow to the size of golf balls.

As colder air spreads over much of the Central and Eastern states, courtesy of a system that may evolve into a bomb cyclone as it tracks from Quebec toward New Brunswick and Maine, the risk of severe thunderstorms will diminish prior to the end of the week.

The potential for severe thunderstorms will return and increase during the latter part of the Easter weekend in the Southern states as warm and humid conditions rebound from the Gulf of Mexico ahead associated with a record-setting storm currently affecting California and the Southwest with drenching rain and mountain snow.

Originally published