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Even before merging, the individual storms remained powerful, Mr. Bunting said.

Besides reports of damaging winds and preliminary tornado sightings, the weather service has received reports of hail at least an inch in diameter in locations stretching from southeast Minnesota to Virginia, he said.

Play was suspended at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia less than two hours after the start of the first round and resumed about three hours later.

In northern New York, rain sent rivers and streams over their banks, leading to evacuations and road closures.

Overnight, thunderstorms that punched through northern Illinois caused significant wind damage, mainly in rural areas west and south of Chicago. The city was largely spared.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.