The National Weather Service is tracking a so-called derecho weather pattern in the Midwest that could spawn severe windstorms in major metropolitan areas today and Thursday.
Gusts as strong as 100 mph are possible.
Accuweather is forecasting that a series of storms expected to pass through Northeast Ohio over the next two days could drop 2 to 3 inches of rain with as much as 4 inches in some locations.
The predicted swath of the storms brewing is large and encompasses an area from Illinois to West Virginia to Massachusetts.
The National Storm Prediction Center says the Akron area is at risk for severe storms today that could include damaging wind, large hail and heavy rain.
The greatest risk for damaging storms, according to the center, is west of Interstate 71.
Derecho windstorms occur once every year or two across the central and northeastern U.S. in a band from Texas to New England. They pack hazardous winds of at least 75 mph or more and maintain their intensity for hours as they sweep across vast distances.
In some cases, a derecho will spawn tornadoes and accompany storms that produce hail the size of golf balls.
The current pattern could affect large metropolitan areas in Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh in the next two days, said Bill Bunting, a meteorologist in the agency’s storm prediction center in Norman, Okla.
“We tend to be careful using the ‘D’ word, but yes, a derecho is possible,” Bunting said.
Paul Collar, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sullivan, Wis., said: “All severe forms of weather will be on the table, but with this pattern, strong damaging winds look to be the main concern.”
The storms could generate straight-line wind gusts of 70 mph or more.
That’s enough to rip shingles off a roof, knock down trees and even tip over semi-trailers. They could also cause flights to be delayed or canceled, said Collar, who added that commercial airlines have on-board navigation that allows pilots to navigate around the worst weather.
The predicted rain for the Akron area will fall onto already soggy ground.
Since the beginning of June, rainfall has measured 2.96 inches at Akron-Canton Airport. That’s 1.67 inches above normal.
“It’s scary because of the potential, but we don’t want to over-forecast,” Bunting said. He said residents in affected states should remain aware that severe weather is possible and pay close attention for any weather warnings.
Campers or hikers in forested areas should be cautious about the potential of falling trees, and boaters shouldn’t venture too far from shore, the weather service said.
Beacon Journal staff writer Jim Carney contributed to this report.