Potent storm to drench northeastern, central US into weekend
From Minnesota down to Tennessee, storms rumbled east on May 19 with intense winds, damaging hail and the risk for tornadoes.
A tornado watch was issued for parts of six mid-Atlantic states late Friday morning as a storm system continued tracking eastward. Roughly half of Pennsylvania was covered by the watch, which was in effect until 7 p.m. local time, and most of New Jersey. Parts of northern Maryland and Delaware and slices of West Virginia and Virginia were included as well.
Severe thunderstorms that brought hail, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes to the Plains this week continued moving eastward on Friday, and AccuWeather forecasters say residents in the Northeast should be on alert for turbulent weather ahead of what will be a major warm up over the weekend.
"With a strong cold front in the area, severe storms may be in the cards over a broad section of the Central states, stretching from Texas to Michigan," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Andrew Johnson-Levine.
While the severe thunderstorm events earlier in the week focused on smaller zones of the central United States, Friday's severe risk will stretch over 1,000 miles along the aforementioned cold front. A solid line of thunderstorms from the Great Lakes all the way to Texas is not expected, but anywhere in that zone will run some risk of severe weather.
"Hail, damaging winds and localized flooding will be possible from any storms that develop," cautioned Johnson-Levine.
The highest tornado risk is expected in the northern extent of the zone across Michigan, but isolated tornadoes cannot be completely ruled out elsewhere in the central U.S.
A second area of severe thunderstorms is possible much farther east on Friday. This batch of storms is associated with a disturbance in the atmosphere that has been sparking thunderstorms since midweek.
"After developing in Oklahoma on Wednesday and moving through the Ohio Valley on Thursday, an area of severe thunderstorms may move through parts of the Northeast on Friday," said Johnson-Levine.
Sometimes when thunderstorms become particularly strong, they can create their own area of low pressure. The storms in Oklahoma on Wednesday did just that, and the energy and thunderstorms have continued to carry on to the east. This low pressure can aid in a long-lived area of thunderstorms.
As the complex of thunderstorms moves into the Northeast on Friday, heating from the sun combined with energy in the atmosphere will likely cause the thunderstorms to gain additional strength. These storms could then move toward the highly-populated cities along Interstate 95.
"The worst of the storms may be centered in Pennsylvania, but the storms may maintain their strength as they move toward New York City during the afternoon and evening," explained Johnson-Levine.
The timing of these storms could cause travel delays during the Friday evening rush hour across the region, both on the roads and at airports.
As the sun sets and the storms approach the cold ocean waters, they should then begin to lose some strength but could rumble over Long Island and southern New England on Friday night before drifting out to sea.
The hottest air since last summer will surge into the Northeast this weekend in the wake of the late-week storms.
As the cold front that will be in the Midwest and Great Lakes on Friday moves to the Northeast by Sunday, another risk of severe thunderstorms will exist. That threat may be centered a bit farther to the north, mainly over upstate New York and interior New England.
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