Parts of the upper Midwest braced for severe thunderstorms Wednesday while dangerous, sweltering heat continued to bake nearly a third of the nation’s population.

Scattered severe thunderstorms, as well as several tornadoes, large hail and gusty, damaging winds are expected from parts of Iowa into Wisconsin, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center forecast.

Heavy rainfall and scattered flash flooding are also possible in the region, according to the National Weather Service.

In parts of the central Plains, isolated thunderstorms are forecast by late afternoon Wednesday, the storm prediction center said.

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Some severe storms may also bring damaging winds and large hail Wednesday to the Southeast through the central Appalachians, the weather service forecast.

Damaging thunderstorms possible

Central Iowa to the upper peninsula of Michigan are at the highest risk for damaging thunderstorms with the worst of the storms likely to hit north and west of Chicago on Wednesday evening, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

“The main threat to lives and property in Wisconsin Wednesday will stem from high winds and large hail, but there is a risk for tornadoes as well,” AccuWeather meteorologist Matt Benz said.

The Chicago area saw a spattering of tornado warnings earlier this week as severe thunderstorms and gusty winds rattled the Windy City on Monday. There were 340 other severe weather reports Monday, with most spanning from southern Wisconsin and Illinois to western Virginia and North Carolina, according to AccuWeather.

Thursday, the severe thunderstorm threat is expected to shift east, bringing large hail and the possibility of tornadoes into the eastern Great Lakes, upper Ohio Valley and the mid-Atlantic region, the storm prediction center said.

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US swelters as record-breaking temperatures continue

A week of record-breaking heat continues to hit a wide swath of the nation, with excessive heat warnings and advisories remaining from Michigan to northern Florida, the National Weather Service said.

Dangerously hot and humid weather will persist Wednesday from the Upper Midwest to the Southeast, with many locations once again seeing triple-digit heat indices.

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Extreme heat in Chicago; relief on the way

The central U.S. has suffered through several days of excessive heat with highs in the high 90s and low 100s, according to AccuWeather. Tuesday, Midway Airport in Chicago soared to 100 degrees for the first time since July 2012, AccuWeather said.

But cooler, less humid air Thursday may bring some relief to the region.

“Finally, by late in the week, a cold front will trim back the heat and bring some relief to portions of the Midwest and Great Lakes,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said.

Still, the National Weather Service said much of the region will continue to see above-normal temperatures

Heat wave to bake West

Meanwhile, parts of the West should see a return of triple-digit, excessive heat by Thursday. Temperatures are forecast to climb well above normal across much of the Great Basin, Rockies and Southwest on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

An excessive heat warning has been issued for parts of interior Southern California and

Arizona, where daytime highs will once again soar well into the triple digits.

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

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