Powerful tornadoes across 6 states leave at least 70 dead

Severe damage is seen downtown after a tornado swept through the area on December 11, 2021 in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Severe damage is seen downtown after a tornado swept through the area on December 11, 2021 in Mayfield, Kentucky.
Photo: Brett Carlsen (Getty Images)

The sun rose over scenes of widespread devastation from Arkansas to Illinois after a series of deadly tornadoes struck Friday night.

At least 70 people have died in Kentucky alone amid the worst December tornado outbreak in recent memory. Powerful storms destroyed an Amazon warehouse and ripped off the roof of a nursing home. One tornado alone caused damage in four states, spitting debris up to 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) into the sky, the altitude a commercial airliner would travel. The light of day is almost certain to reveal more heartbreak.

“Everything around us, as far as we can see, is completely destroyed,” Chris Jackson, a storm chaser who tracked storms as they moved from Arkansas to Kentucky on Friday, For The Washington Post. “This is undoubtedly the worst [tornado] I have ever [seen]And I’ve been chasing storms for seven years.”

The catastrophic damage extends from Arkansas to Illinois

First responders across the six hurricane-hit states were busy. Search and rescue operations are underway at the aforementioned Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, and a nursing home in Monnett, Arkansas, where at least one person has died.

“It’s a great deal of devastation that we haven’t seen in my years in the emergency services,” Bob Blankenship, Mayor Monnett, He told CNN.

But police, firefighters and emergency medical teams have deployed throughout the area. The Candle Factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, is currently a major search and rescue site. There were 110 people trapped when the plant collapsed, and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear estimated it would be the site of mass casualties. Stormchaser Michael Gordon, who is on the site, told CNN that Mayfield “looked like a war zone.” Drone Video at dawn The city appears to be almost completely in ruins during Pictures The panels show where houses once stood and rubble is wrapped around broken trees. The first responders themselves were affected, and the Mayfield firefighters had to Digging their way out of their fire station.

“I would be surprised if we don’t see at least five or more districts” with deaths, Bashir told a news conference. On Saturday morning, estimated that there could be More than 100 dead, making it the deadliest tornado in Kentucky.

Blankenship said Monet was without energy. This is also true for more than 300,000 families in hurricane-hit states and about 100,000 more in other parts of the Midwest.

The record-breaking hurricane caused a lot of damage

Multiple tornadoes hit Friday night amid an outbreak of severe weather. But a single hurricane, dubbed a “Quadruple Country Hurricane,” did the most damage — and it could be a record hurricane.

The tornado tore 240 miles (386 kilometers) away and involved all of Monnet to Mayfield. National Weather Service storm investigators will look to see if they’ll stay on the ground all the time. If that happens, it will be The longest path of a hurricane Registered in the United States

Behind the long path, the violent storm shot miles of debris into the sky and Away from the direct path of the typhoon. A New Albany, Indiana, resident reports a photo showing Dawson Springs, Kentucky, a tornado-hit town. The distance that the crow flies between these two locations is about 125 miles (200 kilometres).

While official classifications are imminent, Bashir said this was “the most severe hurricane event in Kentucky history.” NWS investigators will be conducting an analysis to formally assess the hurricanes, but radar data captured on Friday night shows the storm could have been an EF-4 in Enhanced Fujita Scale And pictures on the ground bear it as well. This would make it a “violent” hurricane and put its winds between 166 and 200 mph (267 and 322 km/h). There was only Three EF-4 hurricanes in December in the history of the United States.

Strange weather paved the way for a hurricane

Hurricanes require the formation of atmospheric instability. In the United States, this usually means cold fronts portend storms from the west and warm, humid air rising from the Gulf of Mexico. This provides the energy needed to irritate the violent winds and enough wind shear to turn the storms where the eastward front intersects as the Gulf air moves north. While hurricanes can form in any month, winters are usually relatively calmer because the air over the bay is not warm enough to provide the necessary fuel.

But the Gulf kept warm and sent it to the eastern United States, as a strong cold front Heavy snow brought to Colorado passed from the west. To give a sense of the opposing temperatures on either side of the front, it was 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) in Memphis and 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus -1 degrees Celsius) in Minneapolis. These throngs of air unleashed historic storms.

People walk through the ruins of downtown Mayfield, Kentucky, in the wake of a tornado.  Post office delivers a seated truck lying on its side in the background.

People walk through the ruins of downtown Mayfield, Kentucky, in the wake of a tornado.
Photo: Brett Carlsen (Getty Images)

In addition to hurricanes, the storm system also lit up the sky with lightning and sent rainy hail. Data from Vaisala, a meteorological company, revealed more than 782,000 bolts of lightning, making this a rare event on this scale as well. Vaisala meteorologist Chris Vajasky chirp This ranks as one of the 10 largest lightning outbreaks in December since at least 2015.

The climatic conditions behind the severe weather

Some climatic factors likely play a role as well. this fall, La Niña formed. The natural climate pattern of the tropical Pacific Ocean can rearrange the weather globally, including Increase the possibilities For more winter tornadoes in the specific area that saw the outbreak Friday night.

It is difficult to determine the exact impact of climate change on hurricanes, although research indicates that Large groups of hurricanes became more common. It’s a very active area of ​​research, though.

But as with anything associated with extreme heat, it’s impossible to talk about it without talking about the impact of burning fossil fuels. The rise in the global average temperature means that the strange heat is becoming more common and intense. We’ve seen it time And time Again so much so that it is impossible to talk about abnormal warmth without mentioning climate change. The warm air currently inundating the south will flow north and bring spring-like conditions to the northeast next week.

This is an evolving story and will be updated.

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