DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Severe weather packing baseball-size hail and heavy rain rolled into Nebraska yesterday afternoon as potentially dangerous storms targeted a number of Midwestern states, including South Dakota and Iowa where voters were casting ballots in primary elections.
The National Weather Service said the highest risk for severe weather was centered in parts of northern and eastern Nebraska, western and southern Iowa, and northeast Missouri. Officials said there was the potential for a weather event called a derecho, which is a storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles.
“This is one of these days we can’t let our guard down,” said Bill Bunting, forecast operations chief at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. “It’s unfortunately panning out as we thought it would. This is shaping up as a very dangerous evening.”
The weather could pack winds of up to 80 mph, large hail and up to 4 inches of rain. An outbreak of severe thunderstorms is forecast for the afternoon into the early hours this morning. It is expected to also affect parts of Illinois, Kansas and South Dakota.
Severe weather has been reported in Omaha, where the Eppley Airfield airport closed as officials wait out the effects of the storm system. Baseball-size hail was also reported in the northeast community of Norfolk, Neb.
The bad weather has already had an impact on the primary elections in South Dakota. A thunderstorm forced Senate candidate Mike Rounds, who was flying to Rapid City, to land in Pierre. Secretary of State Jason Gant said he hopes the weather doesn’t hurt voter turnout, but he wants people to be safe.
The severe weather threat arrives amid an unusually quiet late spring, with far fewer documented tornados in May than recent years.