95 million Americans under severe weather threat today - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

95 million Americans under severe weather threat today

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BY ERIK ORTIZ, NBC News

(NBC News) - Severe storms that raked parts of the Midwest, spawning nearly two dozens tornadoes — and killing at least three people — are rolling through the Southeast and East Coast on Wednesday, putting about 95 million people in harm's way.

The hail and high winds from Tuesday's storms are being linked to one death in northern Illinois, where a tornado victim was killed by an uprooted tree, a second death in southern Illinois, and a third death in Perry County, Missouri, where Gov. Eric Greitens said on Facebook that a tornado touched down.

Dramatic video shows how overturned and crushed cars littered the side of Interstate 55 in Perry County, Missouri.

In total, tornado watchers say 22 twisters were reported across Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Tennessee and Indiana on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Downed power lines were reported, and about 225,000 customers were without power in 13 states, from Arkansas to Iowa and Illinois.

The February tornado was a rarity in hard-hit Illinois, NWS meteorologist Amy Seeley told Reuters, although several January tornadoes had struck the area in 2008.

"It is unusual, but it has happened before," Seeley added.

The threat of thunderstorms continues Wednesday, with severe weather facing a large swath of Americans, from the New York City region down to the Gulf states of Alabama and Mississippi.

Gusts could reach 60 mph in some areas, warned Weather Channel meteorologist Ari Sarsalari. Wind advisories are posted for 51 million people from southern Maine to New York City and west to Cleveland.

A flash flood threat is also possible in the Ohio Valley, where nearly an inch of rain could fall in three hours, The Weather Channel said. Flooding could strain parts of Kentucky and Tennessee as well.

"We're not out of the woods yet as far as tornadoes go today, but I don't think we're going to see as many as we had yesterday," Sarsalari added, "and I don't think they'll be as strong."

Before the storms race through, people from North Carolina up to Boston will see spring-like temperatures Wednesday, and records could be broken, meteorologists say.

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