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Storms packing hail and heavy rains moved across Nebraska and into Iowa as spring weather threatened the Midwest late Tuesday.

Forecasters warned of a major severe weather outbreak tonight and overnight in the central Plains, with large hail, howling winds and tornadoes all possible.

The National Weather Service said it has reports of hail damage and flooding. Several tornadoes were reported in Nebraska along with hail and driving rain.

The Storm Prediction Center placed parts of eastern Nebraska and most of southern Iowa in a high risk area for severe thunderstorms. Cities such as Omaha and Des Moines are in the high risk area.

In Norfolk and Blair, Neb., there were reports of homes and vehicles damaged by large hail. Terry Landsvork of the National Weather Service in Valley, Nebraska, said more than 25 vehicles had their windows shattered by hail on Interstate 29 north of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

"They were driving along Interstate 29, had no place to go, and whether they were driving or pulled over, they just didn't escape the hail," he said.

Winds of up to 85 mph were also reported in some parts of Iowa. Up to 4 inches of rain was expected.

An intense cluster of thunderstorms -- known as a derecho -- is expected to move through Nebraska to Iowa, northeastern Kansas, northern Missouri, and western Illinois in the overnight hours, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Kevin Byrne.

"This is one of these days we can't let our guard down," said Bill Bunting, forecast operations chief at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. "It's unfortunately panning out as we thought it would. This is shaping up as a very dangerous evening."

Contributing: William M. Welch in Los Angeles; Associated Press

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