By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The central United States braced for severe thunderstorms that could produce tornadoes and baseball-sized hail on Tuesday, weather forecasters said.
Strong morning thunderstorms across southwestern South Dakota were expected to increase in number and severity throughout the day in central and eastern Nebraska, northern Missouri, southern Iowa and southwestern Illinois, said forecaster Bill Bunting of the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Bunting said the strongest storms could produce tornadoes, with the possibility of a tornado rated EF-2 or higher, with winds peaking at 135 mph (217 kph) or more. The main concern is damaging winds of 60-80 mph (97-129 kph), he said.
"This is a fairly widespread severe weather day and it's not the end of it," Bunting said.
Nebraska could see baseball-sized hail, he said.
The storms were expected to move into eastern Missouri, central Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia on Wednesday, Bunting said.
AccuWeather.com said the storms could bring 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) of rain, with possible flash flooding in some areas. In the long run, the rain will benefit parts of the central Plains that have been abnormally dry, AccuWeather.com said.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Doina Chiacu)