Home » 5 dead, 21 tornadoes confirmed after record-setting winds lash central U.S.

5 dead, 21 tornadoes confirmed after record-setting winds lash central U.S.

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At least five people are dead after a storm swept across the Great Plains and Midwest on Wednesday, bringing record-breaking winds and more than a dozen tornadoes across four states.

Most of the five deaths involved crashes. In Iowa, the driver of a semitruck was killed after the large vehicle was struck by a strong gust of wind, the state patrol said.

In Kansas, three people died in car crashes related to the storm, and in Minnesota, an Olmsted County man was killed Wednesday when a 40-foot tree fell on him, officials said.

At least 21 tornadoes were confirmed in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said after sending storm survey teams to affected areas.

In Iowa, at least 13 tornadoes touched down and storm surveys were ongoing Thursday, the weather service said. An EF2 with around 120 mph winds struck near Atlantic, Iowa.

Jim Pellett told NBC affiliate WHO of Des Moines that his wife convinced him to go to the basement on their farm.

“We’d no more than gotten down there and it did hit,” Pellett told the station. “It seemed like a big smack … then we heard glass breaking and trees snapping.”

Two EF2 tornadoes in Clark County, Wisconsin, destroyed one home and tore the roof off another, the weather service in La Crosse said.

Five tornadoes struck in Nebraska south of Omaha, one of which heavily damaged a horse farm, and damage from a tornado was also found in Hartland, Minnesota.

According to the Storm Prediction Center, Wednesday’s winds were record-setting, with the most wind gusts of 75 mph or greater since at least 2004. There were 55 such gusts “and counting,” it said late Wednesday.

Video released by the Nebraska State Patrol showed a big rig topple in front of a trooper on Interstate 80 near Lincoln on Wednesday afternoon. The driver was not injured.

The weather was “very unusual for December,” Bryon Miller, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Omaha/Valley office, said. “Going back at least 50 years there hasn’t been an event in eastern Nebraska or western Iowa like this in the month of December.”

Forecasters had warned of an “extremely powerful storm system” that would bring the threat of severe thunderstorms and damaging winds across the Great Plains and Upper Midwest on Wednesday night.

Roads in western Kansas, including a portion of Interstate 70, were closed due to blowing dust and crashes, the state Department of Transportation said.

Tractor-trailers in the state blew over and there were brownout conditions and close to zero visibility near Wakeeney, Kansas, and officials urged people to stay off the highways. Kansas State University Salinas said its campus suffered weather damage and was closed.

“If you don’t have to travel, don’t. Stay home,” the Kansas DOT had urged in a tweet.

Wildfires in Kansas caused and fueled by high winds led to evacuation orders for cities in Osborne, Russell and Rooks counties, NBC affiliate KSN of Wichita reported.

Residents were later allowed to return, Russell County Administrator John Fletcher told the station. A wildfire also prompted Sheridan County officials to evacuate a few homes near Quinter, according to The Associated Press.

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