Severe thunderstorms possible this afternoon; followed by steamy heat

The Bay State is about to get a one-two punch, first from severe weather later today potentially bringing severe thunderstorms to the western parts of the state, followed by a sizzling heat wave, the National Weather Service said.

Today’s severe weather all hinges on on cloud cover, according to meteorologist Charlie Foley. If the clouds stick around, we’ll largely avoid any severe weather. But if the clouds break, the sun will trigger strong gusty winds, hail, heavy downpours, and even an isolated brief tornado.

The weather service issued a special weather statement this afternoon saying that scattered thunderstorms were expected to reach Western New England between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The storms could even whip up a twister, the forecasters said.

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The most likely locations for severe weather included the Berkshires to the Connecticut River Valley, including Springfield, Westfield, and Keene. The chance of severe thunderstorms is smaller to the east and south, the forecasters said.

Overnight, a Bermuda High – a high pressure system that stretches from Bermuda up the Eastern seaboard – will move in, parking a hot, humid, tropical air mass over the region through Sunday afternoon.

You’ll really feel the steamy regime beginning Thursday afternoon, Foley said, as dewpoints climb and temperatures reach the upper 80s along the coast and the low 90s inland.

State and federal environmental regulators issued an air quality alert this afternoon, effective from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, saying that ground-level ozone concentrations might approach or exceed unhealthy levels in Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket, southern Bristol, and southern Plymouth counties.

Look for more highs in the 90s, both inland and along the coast, Friday and Saturday.

“There is a moderate probability of temperatures reachign or exceeding 90 degrees for three or four consecutive days,” the weather service said in a hazardous weather outlook.

The heat should finally break Sunday night, as a cold front moves through the region, potentially triggering another round of showers and thunderstorms.