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Derecho threat: Storms batter Midwest with wind, hail

A violent weather system – threatening a severe event called a derecho – moved through the Midwest Wednesday dumping hail and rain. Some 12 million people in four states live in the area at high risk of the storms and a potential derecho, according to the National Weather Service.

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An American Beech tree is down on Capitol Hill grounds in Washington across from the US Supreme Court after a powerful storm swept across the Washington region last summer. Storms crossed the Midwest Wednesday, threatening an unusual weather event called a derecho, which is a massive storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/File

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A violent weather systempacking severe thunderstorms, damaging winds and possibly strongtornadoes hit parts of the upper Midwest on Wednesday and maysoon batter Chicago, the nation's third-largest city, theNational Weather Service said.   

Some 12 million people in four states live in the area at high risk of severe storms that include baseball-size hail,possible strong tornadoes and heavy rainfall that could resultin flash flooding, the agency said.   

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No tornado warnings had been issued in the high risk area bymidafternoon on Wednesday, but the service predicted a"potentially very dangerous situation" into the evening througheastern Iowa, northern Illinois and Indiana and northwest Ohio.    

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Thunderstorms along a fast-moving squall line that couldproduce embedded tornadoes and damaging winds of up to 75 milesper hour are expected, according to the weather service.   

"There is a tornado threat in the short term through 6 to 7p.m. (central time), and damaging wind and hail," for theChicago area, said Greg Carbin, meteorologist for the StormPrediction Center of the National Weather Service in Norman,Oklahoma.   

The Chicago White Sox baseball game scheduled for Wednesdayevening with the Toronto Blue Jays was postponed because of thethreat of severe weather.   

More than 20,000 fans were expected to converge on downtownChicago at the time of the severe weather threat for the StanleyCup hockey finals game between the Chicago Blackhawks and BostonBruins at the United Center indoor arena.   

Severe storms are also possible for a portion of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, according to the service. 

 (Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Greg McCune, SofinaMirza-Reid and Dan Grebler)