MILLIONS across the US are bracing for possible tornadoes and strong storms this week after severe winds ravaged parts of Wisconsin across Wednesday night.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of Emergency on Thursday after severe thunderstorms with the potential to produce hurricane-force winds swept across the southern part of the Badger State overnight.
“Last night’s storms affected communities from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan, leaving many regions with widespread damage,” Evers said announcing the executive order.
The governor said that heavy rainfall and large hail had caused damage in several counties.
Two tornadoes touched down in the state overnight, the National Weather Service reported, with a third confirmed to have struck on Thursday afternoon in Watertown, Jefferson County.
NEARLY SIX MILLION WARNED
On Wednesday, the NWS' Storm Prediction Center warned that severe weather could affect more than 5.9 million people in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Wisconsin cities of Milwaukee, Green Bay, Kenosha, and Racine.
The region is under a level 4 out of 5 threat of severe weather.
The NWS later reported that the storms had the potential to produce "widespread and potentially significant wind damage", with wind speeds of more than 70 mph forecast in some areas.
Experts said the line of storms had to potential to become a Derecho storm, a rare weather event that has power similar to an inland hurricane.
It's capable of blowing down trees, flipping vehicles, causing widespread property damage, and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.
For a storm system to be considered a derecho, the scale of wind damage must stretch for more than 240 miles with wind gusts of at least 58mph.
"Given the degree of instability and strong flow aloft, the development of a derecho is certainly possible with widespread wind damage caused by hurricane-force winds," National Weather Service in Twin Cities, Minnesota, said.
"Some tornadoes may also accompany the line," the agency added.
CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said Wisconsin is likely to experience the greatest impact of the storm, though a large area of the Midwest, including Chicago, is also at risk.
A derecho tore through parts of the Midwest last August, leaving more than 250,000 people without power in Illinois and Iowa, and causing the deaths of at least two people.
Wisconsin is already feeling the effects of the severe weather, with electricity knocked out for about 90,000 customers across the state, according to the tracking website PowerOutage US.
The biggest area that has been impacted is in the Waukesha area where over 25,000 customers were without power.
Tornado warnings were first issued in Wausau and eventually for Waukesha, Jefferson, and Milwaukee counties too at around 1am on Thursday.
A 70 mph wind gust was reported at 8.40 pm Wednesday in Merrill in Lincoln County, according to the weather service.
Numerous trees and power lines were reported down in Merrill.
A 78 mph wind gust was reported at Weston in Marathon County at 9pm, according to the weather service. Sustained winds of 74 mph are required for a Category 1 hurricane.
Widespread damage has also been reported in the wake of the three tornadoes in the state.
No injuries or deaths have yet been reported.
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