Storms target central US again: Millions alerted of tornado danger; hail and high winds have started. Live updates.

Blizzard conditions, wicked winds and possible tornadoes were expected to cause havoc across much of the nation early Tuesday from the West Coast to the Southeast.

Meteorologists were especially concerned about dangerous overnight tornadoes in the central U.S. and warned residents to have shelter ready before going to sleep.

"This could be a night to just set up down in the basement to be safe," said Tom Philip, a meteorologist in Davenport, Iowa.

By late Tuesday afternoon and evening, more than a dozen states will be at risk for severe weather and tornadoes. The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for for more than 3 million people in portions of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri until 10:00 p.m. CDT, noting that "intense tornadoes" are likely.

Storms began Tuesday morning in the Midwest. Strong thunderstorms swept through the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois with winds up to 90 mph and baseball-size hail. No injuries were reported, but trees were downed and some businesses were damaged in Moline, Illinois.

In Colona, Illinois, a brief tornado uprooted trees and ripped the roof off a gas station and tossed it into a nearby brick building, collapsing the front wall, the weather service said.

A tornado near Lewiston, Illinois, was reported to the weather service just before 7:30 p.m. CDT. Afterward, the Fulton County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency posted on Facebook there were multiple injuries and victims being treated, but no known fatalities. Damages also were reported in Table Grove and the village of Bryan, where water use was being limited.

The Fulton County Sheriff's Office warned of widespread damage in a Facebook post, adding "the situation is dangerous with numerous power lines down, gas leaks, and debris in the area."

IS A TORNADO WATCH OR WARNING WORSE? What to know about preparing for these violent storms

WHAT DEFINES A BLIZZARD? Heavy snow and high winds expected to sweep across country.

Hail also pelted portions of northern Illinois on Tuesday afternoon: "Hail as large as 2 to 2.5 inches now likely falling in southeastern Lake County IL near Bannockburn," the National Weather Service in Chicago tweeted. "Very damaging hail storm - take cover now!"

Blizzard warnings also blanketed parts of the West, northern Plains and upper Midwest, and nearly 3 feet of snow was possible in some places in what the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center called "an impressive late-season winter storm."

By 9 p.m. Tuesday, the Weather Prediction Center said 25.5 inches of snow had fallen in Inkom, Idaho; 30 inches in Hot Springs, South Dakota; 35 inches in Alta, Utah and 33 inches in Glenrock, Wyoming.

Meanwhile, fierce winds were expected across a stretch of the country from California to Missouri, and some gusts were forecast to reach up to 80 mph, possibly helping fuel and fan any wildfires that ignite.

High winds in Texas helped whip the “Bent Willow” wildfire near Amarillo to 5,000 acres by Tuesday evening, and the Texas A & M Forest Service said evacuations were underway.

Some of the severe storms were forecast in areas where residents are still recovering after more than 90 tornadoes last week left 32 people dead and wiped out whole communities in Arkansas and Mississippi.

In Little Rock, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. issued a statement urging residents to remain alert.  “It’s tough to think of the possibility of another round of severe weather in the midst of this recovery, but we must remain vigilant and prepared.”

By 8 p.m. Central Time, tornado reports began popping up in Iowa and Illinois. The weather service confirmed tornadoes near Industry, Adair and Canton in Illinois and near Pleasantville, Iowa.

Several locations in the central U.S. experienced record warm temperatures today, the weather service said, with daily highs set or tied in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (84); Vichy-Rolla, Missouri (84); Morristown, Tennessee (83); and Tuscaloosa, Alabama (87).

Tornadoes strike twice in same place

Forecasters in Memphis released the first summary of nine of the 14 confirmed tornadoes that struck the region at the end of March, killing 15 people. The office expects to complete the remaining five surveys by Wednesday, including for the deadly tornado in Wynne, Arkansas, that forecasters say tracked more than 70 miles.

Among the findings: A weather service survey crew arrived in Bethel Springs, in McNairy County, Tennessee, to find that a few homes on Main Street were damaged twice when two tornadoes struck the same area within just a few hours.

The second of those two tornadoes was a devastating EF-3 that traveled 85.9 miles, reaching wind speeds as high as 155 mph and a width of 1,400 yards. The tornado killed nine people and injured 23 others.

Among the other tornadoes that struck the area:

  • Covington, Tennessee - An EF-3 twister reached peak winds of 150 mph and traveled 34 miles. One person was killed and 28 injuries were reported

  • Prichard-Nesbit, Mississippi - EF-2, 22.87 miles, 140-mph winds

  • McNairy-Hardin, Tennessee - EF-2, 19 miles, 115-mph winds

  • Guntown, Mississippi - EF-2, 14.81-miles, 120-mph winds

  • Pontotoc, Mississippi - EF-2, 23-mile path, 120-mph winds. One person died when a double-wide mobile home was swept away

A pedestrian walks along Platte Street as a light snow from a spring storm swept over the intermountain West Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Denver. Forecasters predict that the storm will move out of the region on Tuesday and over the northern plains states where some locations could see up to two feet of snow.
A pedestrian walks along Platte Street as a light snow from a spring storm swept over the intermountain West Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Denver. Forecasters predict that the storm will move out of the region on Tuesday and over the northern plains states where some locations could see up to two feet of snow.

Here’s what you need to know about Tuesday’s weather forecast:  

Blizzard conditions, wintry weather expected from Nevada to Michigan

Tuesday's storm was expected to produce below-zero wind chills in the northern Plains, which “could be life-threatening to anyone stranded outside,” the weather service warned.  

Dozens of schools in South Dakota were closed due to blizzard conditions. State executive branch offices were also closed in much of the state.

But even in areas where blizzard conditions weren't likely, snow was forecast to cover parts of the country from Nevada to Michigan. 

The snow that buried Casper, Wyoming, on Monday was a record-breaker, the weather service reported. The 26.7 inches of snow was the city's all-time daily snowfall record.

In Michigan, a mix of snow, freezing rain and sleet was expected by Tuesday night. Farther south, a flood watch formed a band across the state because of the threat of excessive rainfall, according to the weather service in Grand Rapids.

Expected snow accumulations and wind gusts Tuesday:

  • Nebraska and Wyoming: Blizzard warning in portions of the states, with up to 2 feet of snow and 50 mph wind gusts.

  • Parts of South Dakota: Up to 30 inches of snow. Rapid City could see up to 24 inches.

  • North Dakota: Blizzard conditions, up to 9 inches of snow and 55 mph wind gusts.

  • Parts of Minnesota: Up to 19 inches of snow accumulation and 50 mph winds.

Winter storm map

Severe thunderstorms threaten Plains, Mississippi Valley

Showers and severe thunderstorms were forecast in the Plains and Mississippi Valley, the Weather Prediction Center said. Officials said there was a "moderate risk" of severe thunderstorms from Tuesday into Wednesday morning, which could bring “frequent lightning, wind gusts, hail and a few tornadoes."

A "moderate risk" is Level 4 on the Storm Prediction Center's 1-5 scale of storm risk.

At least 16 states were at risk for severe weather and tornadoes from Tuesday afternoon to Tuesday night, according to AccuWeather meteorologists. That includes all of:

  • Arkansas

  • Missouri

  • Illinois

Parts of:

  • Iowa

  • Indiana

  • Texas

  • Oklahoma

  • Louisiana

  • Mississippi

  • Tennessee

  • Kentucky

  • Kansas

  • Nebraska

  • Minnesota

  • Wisconsin

  • Michigan

“That could initially start as isolated supercells with all hazards possible – tornadoes, wind and hail – and then over time typically they form into a line (of thunderstorms) and continue moving eastward,” said Ryan Bunker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

The same conditions that fueled last week's storms – an area of low pressure combined with strong southerly winds – will make conditions ideal for another round of severe weather into Wednesday, Bunker said.

Wednesday's forecast: More severe storms likely

Severe storms will again be likely across portions of the central U.S. Wednesday, forecasters said. Scattered severe thunderstorms that pose a risk for "strong tornadoes and large hail are expected in a corridor across eastern Illinois through lower Michigan Wednesday," the Storm Prediction Center said. Potentially damaging wind gusts and a few tornadoes are also possible in the Ohio Valley.

Cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Columbus and Memphis are all at risk of severe weather Wednesday, the prediction center warned. The threat for severe storms should lessen by Thursday: "Only isolated severe storms are expected" for the East Coast on Thursday, the weather service said.

Map shows areas where Tuesday's severe storm risk is highest

US weather watches and warnings

Winds extend from the West Coast to the Midwest

Strong winds were whipping across the Southwest and Midwest on Tuesday from California all the way to Missouri. The National Weather Service warned the winds could pack enough punch to topple trees and power lines, and customers in more than a half-dozen states could expect power outages.

The wild winds, combined with extremely dry conditions, could fan any wildfires that form, the weather service said. "Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly and become very difficult to control," the weather service in Wichita, Kansas, said.

  • A high wind warning was in effect Tuesday morning in parts of Southern California, including San Luis Obispo County’s mountains and Santa Barbara County’s interior mountains. Gusts were reaching up to 60 mph.

  • A high wind warning was in effect until Tuesday night in parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Winds were expected to gust up to 80 mph.

  • A wind advisory was in effect through Wednesday morning in other parts of Kansas and Missouri. Gusts of up to 50 mph were possible.

National weather radar

Contributing: John Bacon and Jordan Mendoza; USA TODAY; The Associated Press 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tuesday weather forecast: Blizzard, severe storms, tornadoes across US