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Winds slam Midwest, Northeast; possible twister hits NY town

Updated at 8:05 p.m. ET: Severe storms moved into the Midwest and Northeast on Thursday, including a possible tornado in Elmira, N.Y., where buildings were damaged and thousands were left without power. There was no immediate word on injuries.

Initial reports indicate a tornado touched down in Elmira, the Storm Prediction Center stated. Other towns across eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and upstate New York also reported downed trees.

"Emergency crews are responding to numerous calls, including reported fires and downed power lines," the Elmira Star Gazette reported. "Many streets are impassable due to fallen trees and power lines, as well as traffic signals knocked out by power outages."

Meteorologists expect tonight's powerful storms to bring very heavy rain in a short period of time and flash flooding, which may be a problem in low-lying and poor-drainage areas, NBCNewYork.com reported.

The storms will also produce tremendous amounts of lightning, which can cause a number of problems, including power outages.

NBC New York: Severe storms, possible tornadoes threaten Tri-State area

A tornado watch was issued through Thursday night for parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. 

The unsettled weather was also causing airport delays along the East Coast.

"The potential exists for widespread damaging winds from parts of southern New England to Indiana," The Weather Channel reported. "At least 36 million people are in this zone."

Major cities that could be impacted, the National Weather Service warned, include Cincinnati and Columbus in Ohio; Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; and New York City.

Areas from Iowa to New England can expect 3-5 inches of rain, NBC TODAY meteorologist Al Roker reported Thursday.

Rain was dumped on Chicago overnight, NBCChicago.com reported, and the collapse of a hangar wall at O'Hare International Airport left officials wondering if it was tied to the storm. A wind gust of 70 mph was measured in the area around the time of the collapse.

Several thousand Chicago-area customers were left without power, and additional heavy rains and winds were forecast for later Thursday.

In the New York area, where daytime temperatures are in the 90s, overnight storms were being followed by a second, potentially more dangerous round of storms starting Thursday afternoon.

"Isolated tornadoes are possible in northern New Jersey and the Hudson Valley," NBCNewYork.com reported.

Consolidated Edison and its union workers announced Thursday afternoon that they had reached a deal after a prolonged lockout, paving the way for crews to be on duty for the storm.

On Thursday morning, a fire possibly caused by lightning destroyed the top floor of a Brooklyn apartment building, displacing dozens of tenants, NBCNewYork.com reported.

Airports in the Northeast were reporting weather delays of more than an hour, according to the FAA monitoring site.

Related story: Worst drought areas rise by 50 percent

In the Midwest, the latest rain has not done much to dent the drought because extreme heat has been quickly sucking up the moisture.

"This drought is two-pronged," Brian Fuchs, author of the U.S. Drought Monitor, said in the weekly update on Thursday. "Not only the dryness but the heat is playing a big and important role. Even areas that have picked up rain are still suffering because of the heat." 

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