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‘Ring of fire’ pattern to produce damaging, drenching storms in Midwest and Northeast

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
July 20, 2019, 9:33:52 AM EDT

Heavy, gusty and, in some cases, severe thunderstorms will rip eastward across the northern tier of the central and eastern United States through the weekend.

Such a pattern is common on the rim of an extensive area of very hot and humid conditions and is sometimes referred to as a ring of fire or rim of fire. In this case, most of the storms will be on the northern side and not completely surrounding the vast area of steamy air.

The risk of such storms will extend from South Dakota to portions of New York state, Pennsylvania and New England.

Rim 7.20 am

The thunderstorms will tend to group into large complexes that can travel hundreds of miles.

The more severe clusters of storms that behave in this manner and cause a long swath of damage are called derechos.

Whether or not the thunderstorm complexes reach derecho status or not is less important than the fact that any of the storms in the pattern can pulse to severe levels for a brief time and pose a significant threat to lives and property.

Severe thunderstorms produce wind gusts of 58 mph or greater, which are strong enough to knock over trees, cause power outages and even result in property damage.

"In some cases, tornadoes can be spawned and large hail may occur," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham.

Friday evening, a particularly dangerous situation severe thunderstorm watch was issued for Wisconsin by the National Weather Service as storms moved through the area with very high winds.

Wind July 20

Hail at least the size of eggs fell in Price County, Wisconsin today, according to the NWS's Storm Prediction Center.

Over 87,000 customers were without power in Wisconsin at one time on Friday night, according to

The line of storms then barreled into Michigan, leaving over 260,000 customers in the dark as of 8 a.m. EDT Saturday.

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Storms can pack a punch farther south and east on Saturday as well.

Torrential downpours often occur in storms of this nature. The downpours can temporarily blind motorists and overwhelm storm drains and result in street flooding. Where the storms repeat or train in the pattern, small stream flooding can occur.

NC Saturday

On Friday night, there were reports of washed out roads and bridges in northwestern Pennsylvania due to slow-moving downpours.

Saturday started with a line of damaging thunderstorms pressing southward across western Pennsylvania. These thunderstorms have had a history of producing damaging winds.

The pattern will favor storms that can approach at a fast pace and produce frequent lightning strikes.

Be sure to keep a close eye on the weather pattern while you enjoy your outdoor activities through this weekend. Conditions can change in a matter of minutes. Have a plan of action in place.

flooded road July 20

Flood waters covered a road in northern Trumbull County, Ohio, on Saturday, July 20, 2019. (Twitter/@DevonMcCann1)

"On Saturday and Saturday evening, one area that may be hit by dangerous thunderstorms includes the lower Great Lakes region," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck.

Seek shelter indoors or in a hardtop metal vehicle as storms approach.

Remember picnic pavilions, golf carts, fishing boats, tents and beneath trees are not safe places during thunderstorms.

By Sunday, a press of cooler and less humid air will begin across the northern tier.

NE Sunday July 20

This cool press will cause thunderstorms to progress farther to the south in the Midwest and the Northeast.

However, the risk of severe weather in the pattern will continue and could be more extensive as the storms enter the central Plains, Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic and southern New England into Monday.

Download the free AccuWeather app for more details on thunderstorms and severe weather in your community. Keep checking back for updates on and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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