By Ben Brumfield
(CNN) — “Turn around…don’t drown.”
The National Weather Service warned motorists in and around Lansing and Hastings, Michigan, not to drive through flooded streets early Thursday.
The weather service unequivocally predicted motorists would see them, as a storm system that wracked the upper Midwest on Wednesday with hail, strong winds and at least one confirmed tornado, marched to the East.
Clouds stalling out over Michigan will result in “excessive rainfall” that “will cause flash flooding to occur,” the weather service said.
“Do not underestimate the power of flood waters,” it warned in a flash flood bulletin. “Only a few inches of rapidly flowing water can quickly carry away your vehicle.”
Residents of Fort Wayne, Indiana, received a similar warning and weather forecast. “Flooding is occurring or is imminent,” the service said.
A system of straight-line winds that slammed Chicago with 50 mph gusts and golf-ball sized hail Wednesday reportedly bowled over trees and some buildings in Auglaize, Ohio, early Thursday, said CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.
Local media in the state reported hundreds of households had lost electricity.
The “derecho,” as the windy system is called, usually builds in the Midwest then heads east, he said. ‘Derecho’ is Spanish and means straight.
It resembles a squall line, but instead of potentially producing tornadoes, it sends out a slicing wind.
Derechos usually dissipate quickly, but “this one is holding together pretty good,” Cabrera said. It could make it to the East Coast.
Behind it is a band of thunderstorms throwing down lots of lightning and heavy rains.
A broad swath of flood warnings and watches extend from Illinois to the Atlantic.
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