CHICAGO – Powerful storms threatened to bring hurricane-force winds, tornadoes and golf ball-sized hail to parts of the Midwest on Wednesday, including the Chicago area.
In all, about 98 million people stretching from southern Minnesota to the East Coast could see stormy weather, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Forecasters predicted most severe conditions during the late afternoon and evening hours. Far eastern Iowa and northern Illinois could see "significant" tornadoes of an EF2 rating or higher. Wind gusts could be 70 mph or greater with the worst weather expected in Chicago around rush hour.
"There's the potential for everything right now," said Amy Seeley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service outside Chicago. "Winds will be the biggest threat."
Oklahoma's Storm Prediction Center Forecaster Matt Mosier said tornadoes would be possible for about two hours in a triangle roughly from Davenport, Iowa, to Chicago to Milwaukee. Damaging winds were then expected across northern Indiana, southern Michigan and western Ohio.
Travelers were already seeing an impact by early afternoon with cancelations and delays at both of Chicago's international airports. The Chicago Department of Aviation announced 100 canceled flights at O'Hare and 40 canceled flights at Midway, citing thunderstorms in the area.
Power companies were also bracing for severe weather.
The Northern Indiana Public Service Co. said it had increased staffing at its customer call center and scheduled extra work crews.
Some parts of the country, including New Jersey, were already dealing with the aftermath of earlier storms.
Utility crews in the southern part of the state were restoring power to homes and businesses. Atlantic City Electric said nearly 6,000 homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday, down from more than 34,000 customers on Tuesday.
Severe storms that crossed North Dakota overnight brought strong winds, large hail and a tornado. The National Weather Service reported hail the size of golf balls in McKenzie County, the size of tennis balls in New Town and the size of baseballs in New England, North Dakota. A tornado was spotted in the Watford City area but no damage was reported.