Weather brings threat of tornadoes, storms to Central US on Wednesday

December 15, 2021
The national weather warning map as of midday Wednesday showed high wind warnings (in brown) stretching from New Mexico to Michigan.
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  • Damaging winds are likely to bring down trees and power lines, making widespread power outages possible.
  • Some 36 million people were under high wind warnings as of midday Wednesday.
  • There is also the chance for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes later Wednesday and Wednesday night.

A wild weather day was underway Wednesday across the central U.S., with howling winds the main threat but also severe storms, tornadoes and even wildfires. 

Damaging winds are likely to bring down trees and power lines, making widespread power outages possible, the National Weather Service warned. The winds will also be strong enough to kick up dust and raise the risk of wildfire ignition and rapid spread in some areas, AccuWeather said.

The Weather Service has issued a high wind warning along a swath stretching from New Mexico to upper Michigan – including Wisconsin and Illinois – with sustained winds between 25 mph and 40 mph expected.

In all, some 36 million people were under high wind warnings as of midday Wednesday.

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Already Wednesday, a gust of 107 mph was reported in Lamar, Colorado. A Weather Service forecast office in Nebraska warned that “travel will be difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles. Trucks may be blown over. Holiday decorations will be damaged or blown away.”

Some schools in Nebraska canceled in-person classes and dozens of schools in Iowa planned to close early Wednesday in anticipation of bad weather. Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, shut down at noon due to the storm threat. 

At this time of year officers in Iowa are used to warning people to stay off the roads because of snowstorms, not thunderstorms, said Polk County Sheriff’s Lt. Ryan Evans. 

“It’s really weird,” Evans said. “We’re 10 days before Christmas and we’re talking about 70-degree temperatures and near-hurricane force winds.”

Denver International Airport had over 100 flight cancellations and 288 delays due to the high winds.

There is also the chance for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes into Wednesday night: “Severe storms are expected across southeast Minnesota, west-central Wisconsin, and Iowa this afternoon and evening,” the Storm Prediction Center said.  “Widespread damaging wind gusts (80+ mph) and a few tornadoes (some strong) are likely.” 

A tornado watch was in effect for portions of  of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota.

The Weather Service also predicted that daily high temperatures will skyrocket to over 30 degrees above average on Wednesday throughout the Plains and Mississippi Valley. “With spring-like highs anywhere from the 50s and 70s in the forecast, over 50 daily high records stand to be broken on Wednesday,” the Weather Service said.

Ottumwa, Iowa, soared to 75 degrees on Wednesday, which was a state record high for the month of December. 

The weather across the central states followed a powerful storm on Monday and Tuesday that socked drought-stricken California with heavy rain at lower levels and up to 6 feet of snow at some higher elevations.

Contributing: The Associated Press; The Des Moines Register

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