The strong winds that lashed from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes in the United States on Wednesday exacerbated the dangers of fires and broke weather records. The gusts also closed the section of an interstate highway and tore off roofs. They even forced the evacuation of some air traffic controllers.
At least 55 reports of thunderstorm hurricane-force wind gusts reaching speeds of more than 120 km / h were detected in the Great Plains and the Midwest, according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) of the National Weather Service. The figure breaks the national record for the largest number of such bursts ever recorded.
Around 300 reports of strong winds were made in the regions throughout the day, with alerts affecting at least 80 million people.
A tornado in southeastern Minnesota was the first reported in the state during the month of December, according to data from the National Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Nearly 20 reports of tornadoes were documented Wednesday in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.
Record heat much further north than expected at this time of year has fueled the storms. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. And today we’re seeing things at Citizen Free Press’s Weather Center that we’ve never seen before,” said Citizen Free Press meteorologist Tom Sater.
More than 530,000 customers were without power as of 8 a.m. ET Thursday in the affected areas, according to PowerOutage.us. Wisconsin and Michigan report the highest number of power outages.
The storm is forecast to subside, so many of the severe storm alerts and warnings will expire overnight.
The speed of wind gusts in the United States
Several locations in Colorado, including the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, reported wind gusts of 100 miles per hour or more on Wednesday, according to the weather service. In addition, winds of up to 172 km / h in Lamar toppled semi-trailers, ripped off roofs and toppled trees, reported Mayor Kirk Crespin.
Air traffic controllers briefly evacuated the Kansas City International Airport due “to the wind and the fact that it is a glass box 78 meters high,” according to spokesman Joe McBride. The airplanes resumed takeoffs about an hour after controllers were forced to safety, the airport announced.
Parts of Interstate 70 in western Kansas were also closed due to airborne dust, reduced visibility and crashes, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The storm surge comes just days after a series of tornadoes in eight states that included the deadliest December ever recorded in the United States.
Wildfires in Texas and Kansas force evacuations
With winds hitting at an exaggerated rate, the fires posed a danger to residents in parts of the southern Great Plains and the Southwest.
Winds of 56 to 88 km / h, with gusts of 120 km / h, as well as low relative humidity and temperatures in the 21 and 26 degrees Celsius were a catalyst for unusually dangerous conditions. Certain areas are also facing a nonstop drought.
“Dangerous and life-threatening fire weather conditions are likely, with rapid and uncontrollable fire spread due to extreme wind and dry conditions,” SPC warned. He also noted that this is the first time in the agency’s history forecasting an “extremely critical” fire threat in December in the southern and central plains.
An evacuation order was implemented for the city of Guymon, Oklahoma, due to one of nine wildfires in the west and northwest of the state. This was reported by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
Several hundred people were ordered to “evacuate or be prepared to evacuate” in the city of Iowa Park, Texas, in Wichita County, in the northern part of the state. There are two ongoing fires in the county.
“The fire has changed direction a couple of times,” said Wichita County Deputy Sheriff’s Office Melvin Joyner. He added: “We are working as hard as we can to keep residents safe.”
A 10.1-square-kilometer fire burns west of Amarillo, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported. Additionally, the agency responds to the fires in Wichita County.
In fact, six homes and two other structures were reported to have been damaged in the northern Texas city of Pampa, according to a city announcement. No injuries were reported.
Kentucky continues to assess last week’s damage
As storms hit the central U.S., Kentucky and other states are still grappling with the aftermath of last week’s tornado wave.
The rating for the deadly tornado that swept through Mayfield and Dawson Springs in Kentucky overnight on Friday was updated to an EF-4 in intensity, with maximum winds estimated at 305 km / h, according to ongoing National Weather Service damage studies. .
The tornado had a maximum path width of 1.6 kilometers or more and was on the ground for at least 206 kilometers, moving throughout the area of responsibility of the Paducah Meteorological Service office. The tornado took more than two hours to pass through western Kentucky.
The duration of the tornado is likely to increase as the Weather Service offices near Paducah continue their inspections in the coming days. Even the rating could also increase as more damage is inspected.
President Joe Biden toured the affected areas on Wednesday and said he was shocked by the scale of damage caused.
“The scope and magnitude of this destruction is almost unbelievable,” the president said in Dawson Springs. “These tornadoes devoured everything in their path.”
Biden promised federal funds for recovery efforts over the next 30 days. Including “debris removal, the cost of overtime and security agencies, emergency service personnel, and the shelter. And that will help.”
The number of people killed in Kentucky from tornadoes dropped to 71 from 74, due to duplicate reports, according to the state’s emergency management agency. At least 14 other people died in four other states.
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