Powerful winds have been battering parts of the US, culminating in the windiest day on record this week.
According to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, at least 55 reports of hurricane-force, wind gusts were tracked across the Great Plains and the Midwest on Wednesday.
Over 80 million people were affected by weather alerts during the 24-hour period, with 300 individual weather warnings issued.
Record high temperatures have been recorded in December in many parts of the country more akin to ice and cold this time of year.
The climate crisis is driving the heat which in turn is powering larger, and more extreme storms.
“I’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’re seeing things today in the CNN Weather Center we have never seen before,” CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said.
While the frequency and severity of storms is expected to abate in the coming weeks, the damage has already been done in many parts of the country.
Minnesota reported its first-ever December tornado since records began. On Wednesday alone, almost 20 tornados were documented across Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.
In the Midwest, more than 470,000 people were left without power on Thursday morning, with Michigan and Wisconsin chiefly affected, according to poweroutage.us.
Further south, high winds have also wreaked havoc. Air traffic controllers briefly evacuated Kansas City International Airport due “to wind and the fact that it is a glass box 256 feet up in the air,” in the words of spokesperson Joe McBride.
In Pueblo, Colorado, blowing dust meant zero visibility at times, leading for stretches of highway to be closed.
Texas has also had to contend with a spate of wildfires in the wake of extremely unseasonal conditions.
“Dangerous, life-threatening fire weather conditions are likely with fast-moving and uncontrollable fire spread due to extreme wind and dry conditions,” the Storm Prediction Center said Wednesday.
In addition, it noted that this was the first time in the history of the SPC that it was forecasting an “extremely critical” fire threat in the month of December for Southern and Central areas.
Much of the region has battled with a climate-driven prolonged drought in recent years which is making the landscape more arid and prone to wildfire outbreaks.
The gravest concern will be if there is a repeat of the devastation caused by last week’s deadly tornado outbreak across six states. Dozens of people died in Kentucky alone and entire towns were flattened by twisters.
One of the largest tornadoes, around a mile across, ripped through the Kentucky towns of Mayfield and Dawson Springs.
Kentucky Emergency Management has updated the death toll to 74 people with additional casualties also being reported in neighbouring states.