LITTLE ROCK, ARK. >> The nation's midsection prepared for another day of foul weather Wednesday after a series of storms brought huge hail and high winds, but not as many tornadoes as had been feared.

The Nation Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said 60 million people from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest east to North Carolina and Virginia should be alert for strong storms. The nastiest weather was forecast from Houston north into Iowa.

"This type of environment will support supercells capable of all hazards, although large hail appears to be the primary severe threat," forecasters said Tuesday, looking ahead to Wednesday's weather.

Hail as big as grapefruit fell in northern Kansas on Tuesday, while winds approaching hurricane force — 74 mph — raked communities from Nebraska and Missouri to Texas. Uprooted trees, downed power lines and roof damage were reported in parts of Texas and Oklahoma.

No deaths were reported. In northern Texas, four people were hospitalized after their vehicles were caught up in a tornado that hit late Tuesday, Howe Police Chief Carl Hudman said.

Forecasters said last week that the nation could have seen significant tornadoes Tuesday, but that conditions weren't right for the biggest storms.

Still, the hail and high winds were frightening enough.


Hail 4 inches in diameter fell northwest of Marysville, Kan., and residents of Topeka, Kan., eyed the sky nervously during rush hour after forecasters warned that a supercell thunderstorm could produce a tornado at any moment.

A tornado brushed fields south of Wichita, Kansas, and another small twister touched down in southwestern Indiana. A storm that cleared Oklahoma City around sunset may have dropped a tornado or two during a 90-mile march to Tulsa. Power was knocked out to thousands.

The core of the bad weather forecast shifts back to Oklahoma and Texas on Thursday and Friday, then Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas on Saturday.

Ahead of Tuesday's storms, some Oklahoma school districts either shuttered schools for the day or sent students home early, hoping they would remain safe.

In Fairview, George Eischen, 51, spent the morning moving Chevies into his shop and showroom to protect them from hail — "the real enemy of the car dealer."

Workers at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Missouri, did something similar with airplanes when the skies turned a "mean green" ahead of a line of storms.

"We were able to get most of the airplanes into hangars," aviation director John Bales said.

Associated Press writers Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Ark.; Daniel Houston in Oklahoma City; Jim Salter in St. Louis; and Bill Draper in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.