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Blizzards, tornadoes, and hail, oh my: Unseasonable warmth gives way to severe storm warnings

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Kiichiro Sato/AP Photo

(Read caption) A runner runs along the lake shore, Feb. 19, in Chicago. Weeks of subfreezing weather are giving way, at least briefly, to temperatures in the 50s, putting cities on guard for flooding, roof collapses and clogged storm drains.

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The nation’s wacky winter just got weirder with unseasonable high temperatures along much of the East Coast, Mid-Atlantic, and deep South; blizzard conditions in the northern Midwest; and widespread thunderstorms from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf Coast.

The severe weather system that is currently dousing the Central states with severe thunderstorms and coated the upper Midwest in an icy mix is expected to trudge through Pennsylvania and New York before drenching the Atlantic Seaboard on Friday, according to AccuWeather reports.

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The “two-faced” storm brought blizzard conditions to Minnesota and Wisconsin Thursday morning that are expected to continue into Thursday night, while simultaneously pelting Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and southern Wisconsin with severe rain and thunderstorms, AccuWeather meteorologist Courtney Spamer reports.

Dime-quarter-sized hail pelted portions of the Kansas City Northland, according to local reports.

While southern Kansas, Oklahoma, and northern Texas have so far remained relatively dry, they have experienced gusting winds of 60 mph, Ms. Spamer said. Those winds could whip through the Great Lakes region and the central Appalachians later Thursday.

“[F]arther south, a new line of thunderstorms will ignite Thursday afternoon and will reach from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf Coast into Thursday night,” Spamer said. “It is this zone that is likely to produce severe thunderstorms that are capable of producing damaging wind gusts, flash flooding and even a small number of tornadoes.”

Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois could see the season’s first tornadoes Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday night, the Great Lakes could accumulate 12-18 inches of snow, reports AccuWeather meteorologist Michael Doll.

“It will be a whiteout at times with visibility down to near zero, which will create extremely dangerous travel conditions,” Mr. Doll said.

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At the same time, much of the East Coast, Mid-Atlantic, and Deep South have been experiencing spring-like temperatures, with highs reaching into the 50s and 60s in the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley and well into the 70s in the Deep South, the National Weather Service reports.

East Coast residents from New York City to Jacksonville, Fla. can expect severe thunderstorms and 60 mph winds on Friday morning and midday, AccuWeather’s Alex Sosnowski reports. New Englanders will likely see a wintery mix of snow and rain.

Heavy rains could lead to flash flooding in areas where mountains of snow clog storm drains, Mr. Sosnowski said.

This storm is the latest in a string of extreme weather events to strike the United States this winter that have brought treacherous ice storms to the Deep South, buried the Northeast in nearly 60 inches of snow, and plunged the Midwest into temperatures in the negative double digits.