Tuesday weather forecast: Storms expected to pack heavy rains, damaging winds

Storm forecasters have raised the region's chances for damaging winds Tuesday afternoon and evening, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast, prompting utilities and schools to brace for severe weather.

A tornado watch is in effect for a long stretch of the mid-Atlantic, from North Carolina to the Mason-Dixon Line, including most of Maryland. All of the Baltimore area is included in the watch, which signals that conditions are expected to be ripe for tornadoes to form. It remains in effect until 7 p.m.

Rainfall totals could be about 2 inches, with about an 80 percent chance of showers in the morning and a 100 percent chance of rain and storms in the evening.

Winds from the south and southwest of 15 to 20 mph are expected in the afternoon, with gusts potentially surpassing 30 mph. There is a 45 percent chance winds could turn severe, with gusts of 60 mph, and a 10 percent chance storms could produce tornadoes, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. Earlier forecasts called for a 30 percent chance of severe winds.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews are readying for wind damage, officials said. The utility warned customers in a news release to be prepared for possible power outages with items like flashlights, fresh batteries and fully charged cell phones. About 5,600 BGE customers were without power as of 3 p.m., with another 2,500 power outages restored since 11:30 a.m.

Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford county school officials canceled after-school activities in anticipation of the weather. The Baltimore County school board also postponed a scheduled meeting for Wednesday.

The Maryland Transportation Authority has restricted travel on the Bay Bridge with winds exceeding 39 mph. The restrictions apply to house trailers, empty box trailers, campers, recreational vehicles, hitch trailers with sides or any other vehicles law enforcement officials decide could catch wind.

The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood warning for the shores of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties and Baltimore City. A coastal flood advisory has been issued for the Eastern Shore, with high tides potentially 2 feet above normal in the afternoon and evening.

A wind advisory is in effect on the Eastern Shore from noon to midnight, and a gale warning is in effect Tuesday for the Chesapeake Bay.

Temperatures are expected to be between the upper 60s and mid-70s throughout the day.

Pleasant weather is expected to return Wednesday and through the end of the week, with highs in the low 70s and partly cloudy skies Wednesday and Thursday. Friday, highs could increase to the upper 70s, with a chance of isolated thunderstorms throughout the day.

Have a weather question? E-mail me at sdance@baltsun.com or tweet to @MdWeather.

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