Severe weather and powerful tornadoes are threatening tens of millions of Americans in the Great Plains on Thursday.
The threat is particularly increasing throughout the day in western Kansas and Oklahoma City, but the entire Midwest could see large, damaging hail.
Aurora, Colorado, experienced hail strong enough to puncture a storage container. Quarter-size hail covered a significant portion of the state, creating hail drifts and resembling an early winter snowstorm in mid-May. No major damages were reported, but larger hail is expected from Thursday's storms.
The National Weather Service satellite reveals two storm systems — one over Arkansas and another over Colorado — with the enhanced risk zone in between. The spinning storms generate significant wind shear, where winds blow in different directions at higher altitudes. Combined with heat and trapped moisture, tornadoes can form.
SEE MORE: Severe weather and flood threats across central US
The severe weather risks span from North Dakota to central Texas, but the biggest risk is central and western Kansas south to Oklahoma City. The worst conditions are expected later on Thursday, including EF-2 or stronger tornadoes.
In the Pacific Northwest, an extreme heat watch has been issued for Portland, Oregon, up through Seattle, starting Saturday. Temperatures will reach the 90s, and less than half of the homes in the area have air conditioning. People should start preparing for these conditions, which are expected to last for several days.
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