Severe storms including hail, tornadoes hit Midwest, South
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — People still sorting through the wreckage of their homes after a weekend of deadly weather braced for another wave of strong storms that began rolling into parts of the Midwest and South on Tuesday evening. At least one tornado was confirmed Tuesday night, and officials warned residents to have shelter ready before going to sleep.
“This could be a night to just set up down in the basement to be safe,” said Tom Philip, a meteorologist in Davenport, Iowa.
The National Weather Service began issuing tornado warnings Tuesday evening in Iowa and Illinois and said a confirmed twister was spotted southwest of Chicago near Bryant, Illinois. No damage was immediately reported.
The storms were expected to hammer some areas hit by severe weather and possibly dozens of tornadoes just days ago that killed at least 32 people, meaning more misery for those whose homes were destroyed in Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois. Dangerous conditions were predicted into the overnight hours Tuesday in parts of Missouri, southwestern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas. Farther south and west, fire danger remained high.
When a tornado hit Little Rock, Arkansas, last Friday, Kimberly Shaw peeked outside to film the storm, then suffered a painful foot injury that required stitches when a glass door behind her shattered and wind nearly sucked her away. With another storm coming, Shaw said she intends to be far more cautious this time and will rush to an underground shelter at her home.
“The original plan was just, ‘If we see a tornado coming, we’ll get in the shelter,’” Shaw said. “But now it’s like you’re not going to see it coming. You’re not going to hear it coming. You just need to get (inside the shelter) as soon as the warning goes out or if you just feel unsafe.”
Shaw added: “And there will be no videotaping.”
Earlier Tuesday, strong thunderstorms swept through the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois with winds up to 90 mph (145 kph) and baseball-size hail. No injuries were reported, but trees were downed and some businesses were damaged in Moline, Illinois.
The weather service and Illinois Emergency Management said a tornado touched down Tuesday morning in the western Illinois community of Colona. Local news reports showed wind damage to some businesses.
Northern Illinois, from Moline to Chicago, saw 75-80 mph (120-128 kph) winds and hail 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) in diameter Tuesday afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Baker said. The agency received reports of semitrucks tipped over by winds in Lee County, about 95 miles (153 km) west of Chicago.
Tuesday’s storms targeted northern Illinois, eastern Iowa and southwest Wisconsin. Areas of southern Missouri and Arkansas were most at risk overnight.
In Keokuk County, Iowa, where 19 homes were destroyed and more were damaged Friday, emergency management official Marissa Reisen worried how those cleaning up the damage will cope if another storm hits.
“All of the people who have been impacted by the storms Friday night are doing all this work, to clean up, to gather their stuff, to pile up the debris,” Reisen said. “If a storm comes through and hits them again and throws all that hard work all over the place again, it will be so deflating to those people.”
Severe storms could produce strong tornadoes and large hail Wednesday across eastern Illinois and lower Michigan and in the Ohio Valley, including Indiana and Ohio, according to the Storm Prediction Center. The weather threat extends southwestward across parts of Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas.
The fierce storms that started Friday and continued into the weekend spawned deadly tornadoes in 11 states as the system plodded through Arkansas and into the South, Midwest and Northeast.
The same conditions that fueled those storms — an area of low pressure combined with strong southerly winds — were setting up the severe weather Tuesday into early Wednesday, said Ryan Bunker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Those conditions, which typically include dry air from the West going up over the Rockies and crashing into warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, are what make the U.S. so prone to tornadoes and other severe storms.
Dramatic temperature changes were expected, with Tuesday highs of 74 F (23 C) in Des Moines and 86 F (30 C) in Kansas City plunging overnight to 40 F (4 C) or colder overnight. In Little Rock, Arkansas, Tuesday’s high of 89 F (32 C) tied the record for the date set in 1880.
A blizzard warning was in effect for nearly all of North Dakota and most of South Dakota through at least Wednesday night. The National Weather Service predicted parts of South Dakota could see up to 16 inches (40 centimeters) of snow and wind gusts as high as 55 mph (90 kph).
Dozens of schools in South Dakota closed Tuesday due to blizzard conditions. State executive branch offices were also closed in much of the state.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed off on $20 million Tuesday for emergency snow removal grants to localities. Officials reminded residents to check on neighbors and keep their homes stocked with food, water and medicine, have battery-powered radios in case of power outages and ensure gas meters and furnace vents are clear of snow.
Fire danger persisted across portions of far western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, northeastern New Mexico and far southeastern Colorado, with low humidity, dry vegetation and high wind gusts. Officials issued a fire warning for Custer County in western Oklahoma and urged some residents near the town of Weatherford to evacuate their homes because of a wildfire.
Associated Press writers Trisha Ahmed in St. Paul, Minnesota; Margery A. Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; Claire Savage in Chicago; Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington; and Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.
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