Fox News Weather Center

Severe Storms to Target 40 Million People Thursday

A powerful cold front will send severe thunderstorms towering in the air on Thursday putting many people in harm's way.

A zone expanding from northern Illinois to northeastern Texas will be at the greatest risk for gusty winds, hail and torrential downpours Thursday through Thursday night.

"An active cold front sweeping across the center of the country on Thursday combined with a push of Gulf moisture into the Plains will set the stage for severe storms," said Meteorologist Evan Duffey.

These storms will threaten more than 40 million people as they target several major cities including Chicago; St. Louis; Springfield, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Dallas.

Travel disruptions will be frequent for those caught in the path of these storms as they rumble through. Delays will be possible at major airports, including O'Hare.

According to Meteorologist Ed Vallee, Chicago will be at risk for storms later in the day.

"Thunderstorms will develop ahead of the front Thursday afternoon and move into the Chicago area Thursday evening," said Vallee. "These storms could bring gusty winds, heavy rain and maybe even some small hail." MinuteCastâ„¢ has the minute-by-minute forecast for your exact location when showers and thunderstorms threaten. Type your city name, select MinuteCastâ„¢, and input your street address. On mobile, you can also use your GPS location.

Wind gusts up to 65 mph are possible and will have the ability to bring down trees and power lines. Folks will want to be prepared in case the power does go out.

An isolated tornado or two cannot be ruled out either, but the most widespread threat will be wind.

A large squall line could develop from Missouri to Texas by Thursday evening and will have the possibility of leaving a path of downed trees and damaged properties.

The same cold front brought severe weather to Kansas and Missouri on Wednesday with hail, gusty winds and heavy downpours blasting the Kansas City area. Rainfall totals around the city approached 3 inches.

Heavy rain will again be a threat Thursday and could lead to flooded streets and roadways. Motorists will need to use extra caution and choose alternative routes if they encounter high water.

Severe weather events in the fall are not unusual due to humid air clashing more often with chilly air diving out of Canada. A second but smaller severe weather season is often highlighted each year between October and November.

The same front will track through the eastern Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and central Appalachians on Friday and will bring another round of gusty thunderstorms and heavy downpours.

"Gusty storms will be possible on Friday, but the area affected will be much smaller as compared to Thursday," said Duffey.

The threat zone will include Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, and Charleston, West Virginia.

Chilly air will follow the front in its wake across the Upper Midwest to the Ohio Valley through the end of the week.