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A potent storm system moving across the northern tier of the United States will elevate the threat for destructive tornadoes, as well as all other modes of severe weather, late this week.
Although rainfall will be welcomed since much of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest are dealing with drought, the elevated threat to lives and property will outweigh the benefits from the rain.
Storms into Thursday night may pack a heavy punch.
"Storms in western North Dakota will bring the threat for large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Edwards said.
Strong to severe storms are likely to extend into part of western South Dakota as well.
Edwards added that the potential for tornadoes will be greatest in portions of western North Dakota, including Bismarck.
Typically, the risk for tornadoes is greatest during the first few hours after storm formation, and this case is not expected to behave any differently.
"Any tornadoes that do form will have the potential to become large, given the strong rotation expected in these storms," Edwards warned.
Rotation is a measure of how much spin there is in the atmosphere. Greater amounts of spin typically equal more powerful tornadoes.
By later Thursday night, storms will congeal into a line as they threaten the cities of Fargo, North Dakota, and Winnipeg, Canada.
While the threat for tornadoes is forecast to drop off at this point, flooding downpours and incidents of wind damage will continue to be possible.
Residents living in Thursday's threat zone should keep a close eye on the radar and monitor the latest severe weather alerts. Move indoors at the first clap of thunder, and seek shelter in an interior room or basement if a severe weather warning is issued for your area.
Being close to windows or standing outdoors during a thunderstorm greatly increases the chance of being struck by flying debris or lightning.
Outside of areas hit by tornadoes, wind gusts of 60-80 mph can still topple trees and power lines.
Loose, outdoor objects can turn into dangerous projectiles if picked up by strong winds or a tornado. In addition, roofs can be blown off homes when storms reach this intensity.
Motorists driving along portions of interstates 29 and 94 should be prepared for rapidly changing roadway conditions and reduce speed in heavy downpours. Some of the hail could also be large enough to damage windshields and dent vehicles.
Although the storms will weaken as they move eastward into central Minnesota later Thursday night, another round of storms is forecast to ignite across the Upper Midwest on Friday.
Friday's threat zone includes much of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
While the threat for tornadoes will be lowered, there is a greater risk for flash flooding on Friday, since storms are anticipated to be slow-moving and track over the same areas multiple times.
Residents living along streams and creeks should have a plan of action in place if and when floodwaters threaten.
Yet another complex of storms may erupt in portions of the western Great Lakes region Friday night and wander southeastward toward part of the Ohio Valley with blinding downpours and gusty winds.
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