WASHINGTON: A massive storm system originally forecast to affect one in five Americans from Iowa to Maryland surged on Thursday toward the Mid-Atlantic after causing widespread power outages but largely failing to live up to its billing in ferocity through the Upper Midwest.
The Washington, DC, area braced for the storms and the National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm watches and warnings for much of the region. Forecasters warned the storms could produce damaging winds and large hail and a flash flood watch was in effect.
State and local officials warned residents to prepare for the storms and possible power outages. Power companies said they were preparing for storm response.
Storms with swift, straight-line winds soaked parts of Ohio, damaging trees and barns and leaving many without power early on Thursday as commuters dodged fallen branches on roads and faced backups at intersections where traffic lights were out.
Straight-line winds topping 70 mph were reported and more than two dozen tornado warnings were issued as two rounds of storms pummeled the state, but no twisters have been confirmed, said Phillip Johnson, who was part of the team monitoring developments for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
In New Jersey, officials opened the soaked state’s Emergency Operations Center on Thursday morning to monitor the storm’s progress. The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for most of the state. Forecasters predicted 1 to 2 inches of rain will fall on swollen rivers and streams.
By early Thursday, a derecho hadn’t developed. And Greg Carbin of the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said, “With each hour that goes by, it’s less likely.”
While the Midwest dodged a derecho, several tornadoes, large hail and flooding did some damage.
In the small town of Belmond, Iowa, about 90 miles north of Des Moines, Duwayne Abel, owner of Cattleman’s Steaks & Provisions restaurant, said a tornado demolished part of the building. No one was in the restaurant at the time.
“I was, oh, 8 miles west of town and I looked toward town and I could see a funnel cloud, having no idea it was exactly where our restaurant was,” Abel said. His wife and an employee were able to get out of the restaurant and sought shelter in a basement. In Iowa, at least two businesses and a home were damaged, authorities said.