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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Hurricane winds hit the Midwest, leaving 5 dead

Hurricane Winds Hit The Midwest, Leaving 5 Dead

Margery A. Beck and Margaret Stafford | Associated Press

OMAHA, Nebraska. At least five people died when a powerful and highly unusual storm system swept across the Great Plains and the Midwest in unseasonably high temperatures, creating hurricane winds and possible tornadoes in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

In southeastern Minnesota, Olmstead County Sheriff Lieutenant Lee Rossman said a 65-year-old man was killed Wednesday night when a 40-foot tree fell on him outside his home. In southwestern Kansas, blinding dust kicked up by the storm on Wednesday led to two separate accidents that killed three people, Kansas Highway Patrol soldier Mike Racey said. Iowa State Patrol confirmed that strong winds hit a semi-trailer in eastern Iowa, which rolled over on its side Wednesday night, killing the driver.

The National Weather Service said Thursday the storm moved north of the Great Lakes into Canada, with strong winds, snowfall and dangerous conditions continuing in the upper Great Lakes region. More than 400,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity in Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports.

A tornado was reported in southern Minnesota on Wednesday, and if confirmed, it will be the state’s first recorded tornado in December. The small community of Heartland, Minnesota, may have suffered the most, according to county disaster management director Rich Hall, with 35 to 40 homes slightly damaged and several businesses severely damaged.

The destructive weather system has developed against the background of unprecedented heat in December in the Plains and in the northern states. Including the temperature rose to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) in southwest Wisconsin on Wednesday evening. Weather Company historian Chris Burt likened the heat to a “warm July evening.”

“I can say with some confidence that this event (heat and tornado) is one of the most (if not the most) abnormal weather events ever recorded for the Upper Midwest,” Bert wrote in a Facebook post.

Winds knocked down trees, branches and nearly 150 power lines in the Lower Peninsula of northern and western Michigan. In the western Michigan village of Fruitport, strong winds blew off a portion of the roof of Edgewood Elementary School, causing authorities to close all neighborhood schools on Thursday.

Plain states received more than 20 tornado reports on Wednesday, mostly in eastern Nebraska and Iowa, based on preliminary reports from the Storm Prediction Center. According to the center, the storm system has led to more reports of hurricane winds – 75 mph (120 km / h) or higher – on any day in the United States since 2004.

“This many devastating hurricanes at one time would be unusual at any time of the year,” said Brian Barienbruch, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Valley, Nebraska. “But that it happened in December is really not normal.”

Governors of Kansas and Iowa have declared a state of emergency.

The system emerged in the wake of devastating tornadoes last weekend that blasted through states including Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois and Kentucky, killing more than 85 people. On Wednesday, there were at least 59 reports of hurricane gusts across the region. This exceeded the 53 recorded on Aug.10, 2020, when a rare forest hurricane storm hit Iowa, the Storm Prediction Center said. However, Wednesday’s damage was much less severe than last year’s derecho, which caused billions of dollars in damage.

The wind also raised dust that reduced visibility to zero in parts of Kansas and caused at least four semi-trailers to burst, causing authorities to temporarily close most of Interstate 70, as well as all state highways in nine northwestern Kansas counties.

Officials said Thursday that Kansas has deployed helicopters and other fire-fighting equipment to help stifle at least a dozen wind-driven wildfires in the western and central counties.

This dust and smoke was blown north by the storm and concentrated over parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, resulting in a sharp decline in air quality in those areas late Wednesday night. This led to a large number of calls to already taxed emergency dispatchers from people reporting the smell of smoke.

The system flew into the Plains from Colorado, sending hurricane winds across the strip from New Mexico to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Upper Michigan. The Meteorological Service recorded gusts at 107 mph (172 km / h) Wednesday morning in Lamar, Colorado, and gusts at 100 mph in Russell, Kansas.

Scientists say extreme weather events and higher temperatures are more likely due to climate change caused by human activities. However, the scientific explanation of the storm system to global warming requires special analysis and computer simulations, which take time, have not yet been carried out, and sometimes do not show a clear connection.

“I think we also need to stop asking whether this event was caused by climate change,” said Victor Jensini, professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University. “We have to ask, ‘To what extent did climate change play a role and how likely is this event to occur in the absence of climate change? “”

Wednesday’s unusually high temperatures were in part related to record high ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, which would not have happened without global warming, said Jeff Masters, meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections, co-founder of Weather Underground.

Stafford reported from Liberty, Missouri.

Associated Press writers Jill Blid of Little Rock, Arkansas; Ken Miller in Oklahoma City; Terry Wallace in Dallas; Seth Borenstein in Washington; Jim Anderson from Denver and Grant Schulte from Omaha, Nebraska contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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