Severe weather pounds central US, Northeast; rough holiday weekend ahead

Millions across the central and eastern U.S. − including in some states that were ravaged by tornadoes earlier this week − are bracing for severe weather as an onslaught of powerful storms pushes ahead into the holiday weekend.

About half the country, from Texas to North Dakota and from Georgia through New England, was at risk of fierce weather conditions on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

The biggest threat was concentrated in parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri, an area where winds at speeds of 75-85 mph, large hail and a few tornadoes were "probable" through the afternoon and into the evening, the weather service said.

As the unofficial start of summer approaches, the weekend doesn't look encouraging for outdoor activities either. The weather service said "potentially significant severe thunderstorms,'' including possible tornadoes and large hail, could be on tap for parts of the central and southern Plains on Saturday.

To the east, thunderstorms swept over major cities Thursday, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., frustrating travelers as debris forced road closures and delays piled up. The weather service received reports of 1.5- inch hail in Westchester, New York, tangled power lines in Pennsylvania and toppled trees in New Jersey.

Officials issued a temporary ground stop at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in Queens, New York, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. More than 300 flights were delayed and nearly 50 were canceled at LaGuardia by 11 a.m. Airports in Boston, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Houston also reported delays.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of homes and businesses were without power across the country. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, more than 75,000 outages were reported, according to a USA TODAY tracker. In Texas, upward of 110,000 utility customers had no power, while 14,000 outages were reported in Louisiana.

For a week, the central U.S. has been under a constant barrage of potent, sometimes deadly storms. Tornadoes swept across half a dozen states, killing at least five people in Iowa, injuring dozens of others and inflicting widespread damage estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. On Wednesday, suspected tornadoes hit parts of central Texas, destroying homes and triggering rescue operations.

Storms to slam central, eastern US through the weekend

Through the rest of the week and into Memorial Day weekend, rounds of showers and thunderstorms will slam the central U.S. before expanding to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast by Monday.

On Friday, parts of the region, from Texas to the Ohio Valley, will be soaked by passing storms, brining up to 6 inches or rain to some local areas, according to AccuWeather. Outdoor weekend plans will likely be hampered, especially across the Plains and parts of the Midwest, meteorologists warned.

Beach weather along Southeast, Southwest and California

There will be plenty of spots that offer beach weather over the Memorial Day weekend, just not in the Northeast.

The coastal areas from the Southeast to the Southwest are expected to feature temperatures up to the high 80s and into the 90s, and some of the California beaches will be toasty as well. Miami, Tampa, Florida, Houston and Santa Barbara, California, are among the coastal cities where the thermometer is forecast to reach at least 90 degrees.

Accuweather reports that water temperatures figure to range from the mid-70s to the mid-80s in the southern Atlantic coast, depending on location, and will mostly stay in the mid-80s in the Gulf of Mexico. Along the California coast, though, the water will be in the low 60s.

Widespread damage in Temple, Texas

Storms spun up twisters in central Texas on Wednesday, including a tornado that ravaged the city of Temple, about 60 miles north of Austin.

Videos and photos online show windows blown out, ceilings caved in and trees toppled onto homes. Local authorities issued a disaster declaration and urged residents to stay off the roads as a large cleanup and recovery effort began.

Temple Mayor Tim Davis said Thursday no one was badly hurt despite the immense damage.

"This was a very strong and devastating tornado," he said. "There are many people that lost property, many people that lost homes; there were a few injured, thankfully nothing very serious."

While there were was only a few tornado reports Wednesday, there were hundreds of reports of hail and damaging winds across the central and eastern U.S., according to the Storm Prediction Center.

Parts of northwest Illinois saw wind gusts of up to 50 mph during a storm May 21, 2024. Dozens of power lines were damaged.
Parts of northwest Illinois saw wind gusts of up to 50 mph during a storm May 21, 2024. Dozens of power lines were damaged.

5 killed, dozens injured in Iowa following strong storms, tornadoes

Greenfield, a small southwestern Iowa town with a population of just over 2,000, got the worst of the storms on Tuesday.

Officials said an EF-3 tornado with 136 to 165 mph winds tore through town, flattening homes and decimating businesses. The Iowa Department of Public Safety said in a statement Wednesday that four people were killed and at least 35 were injured.

Authorities also said a woman was killed when her car was blown off the road near Corning, Iowa, about 30 miles southwest of Greenfield. Teams with the weather service reviewed nearly two dozen reports of tornadoes across Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

Severe weather has been constant across the central U.S since storms pummeled eastern Texas last week, killing eight people in the Houston area and knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses just before an intense heat wave.

National weather radar

Contributing: John Bacon, Kyle Werner, Victoria Reyna-Rodriguez, Jorge L. Ortiz

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Severe weather threat as parts of US still in crosshairs of storms