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Midwest braces for storms, tornadoes amid coronavirus, stay at home orders

Close to 40 million people in the Midwest have a new worry this weekend as they deal with the coronavirus and stay at home orders—lashing rain from severe storms that may bring tornadoes.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center says a “severe-weather outbreak is expected for portions of the Midwest” Saturday afternoon and evening.

“A few long-tracked, significant tornadoes are possible, along with large, damaging hail and severe gusts,” the center added.

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AccuWeather reported that the main severe weather threat will arise as a storm system, which will unleash snow in the Rockies, emerges from the region and tracks northeastward across the Plains and then the Upper Midwest.

Lightning is seen in the sky over the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., Thursday, March 26, 2020. Strong winds and hail are forecast for the area.
(AP)

Saturday’s severe weather threat may extend as far to the north as central Iowa and southern Wisconsin and as far to the south as northeastern Texas and northwestern Louisiana, according to the weather forecaster.

Large metro areas of Chicago, St. Louis, Davenport, Iowa, and Little Rock, Arkansas, are among the areas at risk.

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“Storms from northern Missouri and southern Iowa to central Illinois may have the greatest potential for tornadoes on Saturday, but this threat area may lift northward later in the day and early in the evening,” AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Knopick said.

Weather.com advised people who may need to use a community shelter in a tornado threat to check on the status of that shelter well in advance, given the turbulent status of coronavirus precautions.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service issued guidance Friday for severe weather during the coronavirus pandemic.

“At this time, IEMA and the NWS are recommending that your first priority should be to protect yourself from a potential tornado. However, the decision to open a community shelter will ultimately be at the discretion of local officials,” the statement said adding it would be wise to check with local officials to ensure they will be open.

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“If you rely on community shelters, now is a good time to explore other options that might keep you safe from a tornado while also limiting your potential exposure to COVID-19.”

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