By Molly O'Toole
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Much of the Mid-Atlantic braced on Friday for a round of strong thunderstorms to pelt the region with heavy rainfall, gusty winds and lightning, forecasters said.
Parts of eastern Pennsylvania, much of New Jersey and areas of Maryland and Delaware were under flash flood watches through the evening hours, according to the National Weather Service.
"There's the potential for the storms to produce heavy rain," said Kristin Kline, NWS meteorologist in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. "They are slow-moving and with the already saturated grounds ... there could be some problems with flash flooding."
The storms were expected to move through later in the day and soak the region with one half to one inch of rain, with the threat of more in some localized areas, NWS said.
With a likely break from the rain on Saturday, a new threat of thunderstorms and showers was forecast to emerge on Sunday, said AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Paul Walker.
Parts of the Midwest would likely see blistering winds and hail as strong thunderstorms were predicted Friday.
Walker said he could not rule out the possibility of an isolated tornado given the stormy weather expected in Kansas and central Nebraska.
Damaging storms swept through the region pummeling Omaha, Nebraska and Kansas City, Missouri with large hail Thursday night, according to AccuWeather.com.
The severe weather shut down Omaha's Eppley Airfield and hail damaged at least seven aircraft during the storm that brought nearly two inches of rain and wind gusts around 70mph.
Such extreme conditions haven't spared other parts of the country this week.
A wall of dust engulfed Phoenix Thursday, cutting visibility and delaying flights at the international airport.
Huge sand storms dubbed "haboobs" occur often in the sweltering summer monsoon season in the southwest United States.
But it is high humidity and a 6,000-acre fire in southeastern Virginia that are combining to create what officials are calling a "super fog."
A mixture of water vapor and smoke blanketed roads and interstates and wreaked havoc for motorists, Catherine Hibbard, spokeswoman for an interagency team fighting the fire in the Great Dismal Swamp, said on Friday.
A force of 433 firefighters is battling the fire, which is 15 percent contained. Authorities predict the fire will continue burning until significant rain comes or high temperatures drop.
Virginia's Environmental Quality Department issued an air quality code red -- the second highest -- for certain areas, advising mild health effects for the general public and more serious health problems for sensitive groups.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper in Boston; Matthew Ward in Chesapeake, Virginia; Tim Gaynor in Phoenix; and David Hendee in Omaha; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)