Tornado Outbreak Takes Aim at Upper Midwest

April 10, 2011; 3:20 PM ET
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Destructive tornadoes and violent thunderstorms will slam the Heartland of the U.S. into tonight, with the worst of this outbreak taking aim at the Upper Midwest.

"There is potential for loss of life and widespread destruction is some communities," AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski warned about this outbreak.

The severe weather event will ramp up through sunset as intense thunderstorms erupt from southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin to northeastern Texas.

The violent thunderstorms will then shift to lower Michigan, the lower Ohio Valley and central Texas as tonight progresses.

The threat for destructive tornadoes will be highest into this evening before the violent thunderstorms form into a more organized squall line.

While an isolated tornado cannot be ruled out as far south as Texas, the Upper Midwest is where the atmosphere will fuel the development of multiple strong and long-tracking tornadoes.

More specifically, the greatest threat to lives and property from the tornadoes will encompass southeastern Minnesota, a large portion of Wisconsin, eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois.

Cities at risk include Rochester, Minn., Eau Claire, Wis., Madison, Wis., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Rockford, Ill. This zone lies just south of Duluth, Minn.

The tornadoes could leave a trail of damage similar or worse than what was reported across western Iowa Saturday evening.

Fortunately, no lives were lost due to Saturday's tornadoes. Residents across the nation's Heartland should heed tornado safety tips and tornado warnings to assure the same can be said for tonight.

However, Sosnowski cautioned that "you don't have to be hit by a tornado to have major damage or to be at risk for injury."

In addition to spawning tornadoes, any of the strongest thunderstorms from the Upper Midwest to Texas will be capable of unleashing damaging winds, golf ball- to baseball-sized hail, flash flooding and frequent lightning.

All of the severe weather-related injuries on Saturday were the result of either damaging winds or a lightning strike, not tornadoes.

Strong winds within violent thunderstorms can do more than litter yards and roads with trees and power lines. Semi-trucks and campers can get overturned. Falling trees could cause bodily harm or death, even to those in cars.

The threat for the severe thunderstorms will not end with the weekend. On Monday, the danger zone will shift and encompass the corridor from western New York to Louisiana.

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