High winds, power outages, severe weather and tornadoes batter Midwest

December 16, 2021
The dust from heavy winds obscures the sun in Hodgeman County in Jetmore, Kans., Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021.
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  • From Colorado to Michigan, more than 500,000 customers were without power Thursday morning.
  • Nebraska and Iowa saw at least 20 reports of tornadoes, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
  • Temperatures on Wednesday were also unusually warm, with records set in Chicago and Des Moines.

Historic winds were still battering parts of the Midwest on Thursday after severe weather killed at least one person in Iowa and left nearly 350,000 people without power in the Michigan and Wisconsin alone.

Parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan remained under a high wind warning Thursday, but the storms were forecast to shift north of the Great Lakes, according to the National Weather Service.

The historic winds caused clusters of tornadoes Wednesday and downed trees and power lines across the region. Wildfires in Kansas carried smoke and dust into Iowa. The winds caused a semitruck on U.S. Highway 151 to roll onto its side, killing the driver, in eastern Iowa, state patrol said.

From Colorado to Michigan, more than 500,000 customers were without power Thursday morning, according to the online tracker Poweroutage.us

In Des Moines, the wind gusts reached up to 74 mph, which hadn’t been seen in the city since the 1970s, the local Weather Service office tweeted. Winds on Lake Michigan also reached 74 mph, the Weather Service in Chicago said, and waves reached as high as 15 feet in some areas. In parts of Colorado, winds reached 95 mph.

More from Wednesday’s weather:Tornadoes and 100 mph winds hit Central US; region braces for severe thunderstorms and wildfires

Staff at the Kansas City International Airport had to evacuate the air traffic control tower Wednesday evening, the airport tweeted. The storms also disrupted travel at the Des Moines International Airport.

Nebraska and Iowa saw at least 20 reports of tornadoes, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

“To have this number of damaging wind storms at one time would be unusual anytime of year,” said Brian Barjenbruch, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Nebraska. “But to have this happen in December is really abnormal.”

The Storm Prediction Center also said Wednesday set a record for the most number of hurricane-force wind gusts — more than 75 mph — in a day at 55. The previous records had all been set in summer months.

Kentucky tornadoes:Did climate change play a role? ‘We can expect more.’

High temperature records set in Chicago, Des Moines 

Temperatures on Wednesday were also unusually warm in some areas. In Chicago, daily records for Dec. 15 were set at O’Hare and Midway airports at 66 degrees.

Des Moines also tied the record for highest ever December temperature in Iowa at 74 degrees. Thurman, Iowa, previously set the record for highest December temperature in Iowa on Dec. 6, 1939, according to Iowa State Climatologist Justin Glisan.

Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Des Moines Register; The Associated Press



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