Severe weather with warm front for western New York to Louisiana

By Wendell Marsh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Severe weather including damaging winds, rain and hail cut through the Midwest and Plains on Sunday and is forecast to move eastward overnight.

The severe weather continued for a second day after a large tornado, part of a volatile storm system caused by a springtime warm weather front, left significant damage in Iowa.

“As some residents of the Plains, Ohio Valley and Southeast found out on Saturday, the atmosphere is ripe for severe weather, including tornadoes,” said senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

“This could prove to be a memorable event for the Heartland,” he said.

Sosnowski warned that the atmospheric conditions could bring risks of loss of life over the next few days as the slow-moving system crawls across the eastern half of the United States until it reaches the Northeast on Monday night.

The area from western New York and Ohio to Louisiana will be at the most risk for damaging weather, said.

Iowa governor Terry Branstad declared a state of emergency after the storm that destroyed over half the town of Mapleton, but left no one seriously injured among its 1,200 residents, according to local law enforcement.

The peak U.S. tornado season lasts from March until early July, the period when warm, humid air often has to thrust upward against cool, dry air.

This weekend’s storm was caused by a front of warm air surging northward across the country’s midsection, bringing very warm temperatures with some areas posting possible record highs.

Another day of record-breaking heat into the 90s was forecast for Nashville and much of Tennessee. This after Saturday’s temperatures hit an all-time record high for the date of 91 degrees in Nashville.

It also was the earliest date on record that Nashville had hit the 90-degree mark, according to Bobby Boyd, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Nashville.

In the northern plains, the Red River on Sunday had started a gradual decline in the Fargo-Moorhead area of North Dakota after reaching a preliminary crest at the fourth-highest level on record with rain storms lighter than expected.

“Fortunately, most of the precipitation is coming in as pretty light,” said Greg Gust, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

The Red River rose rapidly last week and appeared ready to threaten the 40.84 foot record crest at Fargo of two years ago. However, the rise had slowed considerably by Saturday.

The weather service said Sunday the river had reached a preliminary crest in the Fargo-Moorhead area at 38.75 feet Saturday night with prolonged flooding expected.

Crews battled more than 65,000 acres of wildfires on Sunday that caused the evacuation of a West Texas town, destroyed 90 homes and critically injured a firefighter.

In Oklahoma, where Governor Mary Fallin has extended a 30-day state of emergency she declared on March 11, firefighters and helicopters on Sunday mopped up the smoldering remains of two fires that erupted Saturday.

One wildfire in Cleveland in north central Oklahoma charred more than 1,500 acres and forced 350 people to evacuate while another struck near Granite in southwest Oklahoma, said Michelann Ooten, spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Management. Damage assessments are still being compiled, she said.

(Additional reporting by Tim Ghianni in Nashville, Kay Henderson in Des Moines, David Bailey in Minneapolis, and Elliott Blackburn in Texas; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Severe weather with warm front for western New York to Louisiana