Five dead as new swarm of tornadoes hit the US: ‘To have this in December is really abnormal’

·5-min read
Five dead as new swarm of tornadoes hit the US: ‘To have this in December is really abnormal’

At least five people have been killed after “really abnormal” powerful storms and record-breaking winds lashed several US states.

Winds as high as 120 km/h (about 75mph) caused hurricane-like storms in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin resulting in power outages and destruction to livestock and property in these states.

“To have this number of damaging wind storms at one time would be unusual any time of year,” said Brian Barjenbruch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley, Nebraska.

“But to have this happen in December is really abnormal.”

A 65-year-old man was killed on Wednesday night in Minnesota when a 40-foot-tall tree fell on him outside his home, Lee Rossman, from the Olmsted County sheriff’s office, told the Associated Press.

In Kansas, the dust storms triggered by strong winds led to two separate crashes that killed three people, according to Kansas highway patrol trooper Mike Racy.

A semitrailer truck was struck by winds in eastern Iowa, causing it to roll over to one side, killing the driver, according to Iowa state patrol.

In another incident in Nebraska, the state’s officials shared a video of a truck toppling in front of a trooper’s vehicle because of the wind. A tweet shared by Nebraska state patrol said the truck driver was not injured because he was wearing a seat belt.

On Thursday, the storm shifted north of the Great Lakes into Canada, bringing with it high winds, snow and hazardous conditions in the region.

Power outages were reported as a result of the storm in Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that said it aggregates live power outage data across the US.

The wind gusts of up to 120 km/hr recorded on Wednesday were the highest since at least 2004, according to the US government’s Storm Prediction Centre.

There were at least 55 reports of hurricane-force wind gusts regionwide, exceeding the 53 recorded on 10 August last year, it added.

However, the destruction on Wednesday was less than that of last August, when a rare derecho wind storm – dubbed “our version of a hurricane” by Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini – struck Iowa.

At least two tornadoes were also confirmed in southern Minnesota.

The National Weather Service said wind speed in Hartland, Minnesota went as high as 177 km/h (110 mph).

The powerful winds caused minor damage to at least 35 to 40 homes and left a few businesses severely damaged, said Freeborn County emergency management director Rich Hall.

In western Michigan, there were reports of damage to livestock and power outages as strong winds knocked down trees and power lines.

At least 70 cows were reportedly electrocuted when an electric pole fell on a milking barn in Newaygo County in Michigan.

At least 150 power lines were knocked down in northern and western Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Strong winds also carried with them a portion of the roof of Edgewood Elementary School in western Michigan’s Fruitport.

In Kansas, strong winds created dust storms that reduced visibility. At least four semitrailers were blown over on the highway due to low visibility.

Officials, as a result, temporarily closed much of Interstate 70, as well as all state highways in nine northwestern Kansas counties.

Firefighters and helicopters were also deployed in several areas in Kansas to put out wildfires caused by the heavy winds.

The governors of Kansas and Iowa have declared a state of emergency in their respective states.

Officials said the strong winds and storm developed amid an unprecedented warm December in the Plains and northern US states, with temperatures rising to as high as 21 degrees Celsius in places like southwestern Wisconsin on Wednesday evening.

Scientists said extreme weather conditions are likely to increase due to climate change.

Jeff Masters, a Yale Climate Connections meteorologist who cofounded commercial weather service Weather Underground, said the unusually warm temperatures on Wednesday were due in part to record high ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, which wouldn’t have happened without global warming.

Wednesday’s storms come days after at least 88 people were killed in multiple devastating tornadoes that ripped across six states last weekend.

Additional reporting by agencies

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