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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Midwest shook by hurricane-force winds as at least 5 dead

Omaha, Neb. – At least five people died in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota amid unseasonably warm temperatures, hurricane-force winds and potential tornadoes as a powerful and extremely unusual storm system swept across the Great Plains and the Midwest.

In southeastern Minnesota, Olmsted County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Lee Rossman said a 65-year-old man died Wednesday night after a 40-foot tree blew up outside his home. In southwestern Kansas, dust from a tornado killed three people in two separate accidents on Wednesday, Kansas Highway Patrol soldier Mike Resey said. And in eastern Iowa, a semitrailer was hit by strong winds and rolled over on its side on Wednesday evening, killing the driver, the Iowa State Patrol confirmed.

The National Weather Service said the storm moved north of the Great Lakes into Canada on Thursday, with strong winds, snow and hazardous conditions continuing in the upper Great Lakes region. More than 190,000 homes and businesses were out of power on Thursday afternoon 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, would be the state’s first recorded in December. County Emergency Management Director Rich Hall said the small community of Heartland, Minnesota, may be the hardest hit, with 35 to 40 homes with minor damage and some businesses with severe damage.

The loss also includes livestock. Dozens of cows at a dairy farm were electrocuted after an electric pole fell on a milking barn in western Michigan’s Newago County. Tim Butler said his workers at the dairy survived the incident, but at least 70 cows died. Dozens survived, but many were “severely hurt”, Butler said.

A devastating weather system developed in the plains and northern states amid unprecedented heat for December. In this, the temperature in southwestern Wisconsin rose to 70 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday evening. Weather Company historian Chris Burt compared the heat to a “warm July evening”.

“I can say with some confidence that this event (heat and tornadoes) is the most (if not the most) anomalous weather event on record for the Upper Midwest,” Burt wrote in a Facebook post.

Winds toppled trees, tree trunks and about 150 power lines in the Lower Peninsula of northern and western Michigan. In the western Michigan village of Fruitport, strong winds stripped a portion of the roof of Edgewood Elementary School, prompting officials to close all district schools on Thursday.

Based on preliminary reports from the Hurricane Prediction Center, there were more than 20 tornado reports Wednesday in the plains states, mostly scattered across eastern Nebraska and Iowa. The center said the hurricane system reported the most hurricane-force wind gusts of 75 mph or more on any day in the US since 2004.

“A wind storm so damaging at one time would be unusual at any time of year,” said Brian Barzenbrook, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Canyon, Nebraska. “But it’s really unusual for this to happen in December.”

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