By David Bailey
(Reuters) - Parts of the southeastern United States were hit by heavy rain and flood warnings on Thursday as above-normal and record-breaking temperatures warmed much of the rest of the middle and eastern part of the nation, meteorologists said.
Thunderstorms producing heavy rain and flooding were moving slowly through southeastern Mississippi into southwestern Alabama on Thursday, said Steven Weiss, chief of the science support branch at the National Storm Prediction Center.
The weather service issued flash flood warnings until 7:30 p.m. Central time for parts of that area after three to four inches of rain fell over the midday hours and up to three more inches were possible.
Those storms were expected to start to fade overnight, Weiss said. The storms in Louisiana and Mississippi produced some tornado damage on Wednesday that was being surveyed along the Mississippi River, he said.
Some minor storms were possible on Friday east of the Mississippi River stretching from Illinois down to Alabama and moving east to northeast, he said.
By Saturday, the storm threat was more toward parts of mid-Atlantic states including Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas and southern Georgia, Weiss said.
As for temperatures, much of the Midwest and Eastern United States continued an unprecedented stretch of warmth, though it will begin to cool a little, said Tom Kines, an AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist.
"Over the next few days, we will see less and less of the record highs. That is not to say that it is going to turn really cold over the Upper Midwest," Kines said.
On Thursday, Chicago reached a record 82 degrees, breaking the prior record for this date of 79 degrees set in 1938.
On Wednesday, the Chicago record high of 87 degrees was one degree warmer than Miami has reached this month, Kines said.
Temperatures in the "icebox" of the nation, International Falls, Minnesota, have been running about 40 degrees above normal. International Falls reached 70 degrees on Thursday, setting its 10th consecutive record high.
Over the next few days, temperatures in the Midwest are likely to be in the 60s or near 70 degrees, still way above normal for this time of year, Kines said.
"By March standards, it is still going to be terrific," Kines said. "It won't be quite as warm as it has been, but nevertheless not bad."
That goes for most parts of the United States. It will be warm across the Ohio Valley and into the East Coast on Thursday and Friday, but will turn cooler over the weekend.
The Northeast has been "incredibly warm" and a dose of reality is coming late in the weekend to early next week, Kines said. Temperatures could drop into the 30s, 40 to 50 degrees below recent highs.
(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)