Heavy rain, high winds predicted for northeastern United States

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Widespread thunderstorms, some with damaging winds and the possibility of hail, are expected to sweep through the densely populated northeastern United States later on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The disturbances, which could be more severe than typical summertime thunderstorms, are expected to arrive in the corridor between New York and Washington, D.C., in time for the afternoon rush hour, NWS meteorologist Patrick Burke said.

“In addition to the damaging winds ... there will be very heavy, blinding kind of downpours that make travel pretty treacherous at times,” Burke said by phone from the service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

The storm cells, which could pack winds 40 to 50 mph (64 to 80 kph) with occasional gusts topping 60 mph (97 kph), will usually pass within 40 minutes, Burke said.

While the weather service sees only a slight risk of gusts hitting those peaks, if they happen they could be strong enough to bring down trees and power lines or tip over tractor-trailer trucks on a highway, he said.

Summer storms that are typically fired up by the heat of the afternoon will be made bigger and stronger by the interference of a cold front that was pushing across the Appalachian Mountains around midday toward the northeast corridor, he said.

The cold front is expected to move offshore overnight, but the risk of isolated afternoon and evening thunderstorms will linger for the rest of the week, he added.

Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Bernadette Baum