An extensive storm system will bring multiple hazards to the eastern half of the country over the next 48 hours, with snow, rain, heavy thunderstorms and widespread gusty winds.
On Thursday morning, strong storms left over from Wednesday’s tornado-producing thunderstorms rumbled across the Southeast, Gulf Coast and Florida Panhandle.
On the north side of the same storm system, high winds were affecting the Midwest and the Ohio River Valley, with tree damage already reported in Illinois.
Nearly 50 million people awoke to wind alerts Thursday morning, in an area stretching from Arkansas and northern Alabama to west and northern New York.
West of the thunderstorms, snow blanketed parts of northern Missouri and much of Iowa, Wisconsin and northern Michigan early Thursday morning. Thunderstorms have even been reported in Iowa.
During the day Thursday, this dynamic storm system is expected to continue and expand. Strong storms will be possible in two areas in particular: the northern Ohio River Valley and the central eastern Gulf Coast and Florida Panhandle.
Damaging winds will be the biggest risk in both regions, with cities like Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis and Detroit at risk in the northern risk zone, and Mobile, Alabama and Tallahassee, Florida, at risk in the southern zone.
Through Friday, the Chicago area is expected to experience peak wind gusts of 35 to 40 mph. Detroit is bracing for gusts of up to 45-50 mph, and Indianapolis could see gusts reaching 55-60 mph. Buffalo, New York, has the strongest winds in its forecast, at 60 mph.
These widespread and long-lasting gusts of wind will likely knock down trees, cause power outages and delay air travel until Thursday evening.
As the storms continue, snow will continue across northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan, with several inches expected through Friday morning.
Some showers will also move into the northeast, with a winter mix of sleet and freezing rain possible as the northern edge of the storm system interacts with colder New England air.
But in parts of the Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic and northeast, strong southerly winds will bring a warm, spring-like air mass. High temperatures are forecast to be 15 to 25 degrees above average Thursday in the Ohio Valley, with even higher readings expected Friday in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Temperatures in Richmond, Va., are expected to soar into the 70s, those in New York into the mid-50s and those in Washington, DC, into the mid-60s on Friday, giving more feels like late March rather than early February.
That heat could set multiple records Thursday and Friday, including for cities like Detroit; Richmond, Virginia; Hartford, Connecticut; Binghamton, New York; and Providence, Rhode Island.
Temperatures will remain mild by February standards throughout the weekend.