More severe weather hit central and southern regions of the United States on March 2 and 3, spawning several tornados that killed at least 39 people and caused widespread property damage, according to reports. Officials have reported 21 fatalities in Kentucky, 13 in southern Indiana, three in Ohio and one in Alabama. Georgia also reported a storm-related death. The latest storms follow another outbreak of severe weather that hit Midwest regions on February 28 and 29 and killed 13 people. According to reports, the storms that hit the United States late last month are likely to have caused insured losses in the low hundreds of millions of dollars.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has reported a preliminary estimate of 127 tornados in eleven states in the latest severe weather outbreak (Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia). Reports said the severe weather also brought strong winds, heavy rain and large hail to several other states. The deadly storms mark an early start to the 2012 tornado season. According to EQECAT, this year’s storm season is already running nearly 30 percent higher than the average of recent years, with 152 tornados reported through March 1 in 2012 against the average of 117 over the last six years. The most active months of the U.S. tornado season are April and May.
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The latest tornado outbreak to hit the United States occurred on March 2 and 3 when 127 tornados (a preliminary estimate) struck Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia, according to the NWS. More than 700 strong wind and hail events were also reported by the NWS, causing widespread damage and disruption from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico. According to reports, meteorologists compared the storms to the “Super Outbreak” of tornados that hit the United States in April 1974 and 2011. Emergencies have been declared in Kentucky and Ohio while President Barack Obama has offered federal government help to the affected states.
Early reports suggest the damage and disruption has been widespread, with the states of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio particularly badly hit. Television footage from Indiana and Kentucky showed houses ripped from their foundations while widespread disruption was caused to power supplies, internet and phone communications. Reports said a suspected tornado virtually flattened the town of Marysville in Indiana while the town of Henryville was also badly damaged. Elsewhere, damage was also reported in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia after being hit by tornados and severe thunderstorms.
The NWS has reported around 15 tornados in Indiana and reports indicate that the severe weather has caused widespread damage in the state. Reports said two massive tornados damaged property and infrastructure in southern regions of Indiana for more than 50 miles before eventually crossing into Kentucky and Ohio. Up to 8,000 households lost power at the height of the storms in Indiana. The towns of Marysville and Henryville were particularly badly hit. Reports said Marysville was almost completely destroyed while an EF4-rated tornado with winds of up to 175 mph badly damaged Henryville after cutting a 150-yard-wide path through the town.
Significant damage has also been reported in Kentucky after around 30 tornados touched down in the state. Eastern parts of the state were particularly badly affected after experiencing the most powerful tornados to hit the area in 24 years, according to reports. At least 21 people were killed in Kentucky and reports said some towns in the state were all but wiped out, prompting Governor Steve Beshear to declare a state-wide emergency. There were 23,000 storm-related power cuts across the state, officials said. The counties of Morgan, Menifee, Kenton, Muhlenberg and Henderson were badly hit by the severe weather while properties were reportedly damaged in the towns of Crittenden, East Bernstadt and Morning View.
Southern parts of Ohio were badly affected by the severe weather, with reports of eight tornados hitting the state on March 2. The NWS said the most powerful tornado to hit the state was preliminarily rated EF3 with winds of up to 160 mph. This tornado devastated the town of Moscow, where damage reports included widespread property damage and downed power lines and trees. Officials in Moscow estimated 25 of the 100 buildings in town were destroyed and said several dozens more were damaged. Roofs were torn from the post office and village hall and some homes were stripped of their upper levels, reports said. Property damage was reported elsewhere in the state, including in the town of Bethel, prompting Governor John Kasich to declare a state of emergency
State emergency teams have begun preliminary damage assessments for the latest storms but officials warned it will take days or weeks to tally the damage. However, officials and loss adjusters have more information on the storms that hit Midwest regions on February 28 and 29. They said the damage from this severe weather outbreak was localized but severe in parts. According to the Insurance Insider, the Property Claims Service (PCS) expects insured losses for these storms to be in the low hundreds of millions of dollars after issuing a preliminary industry loss estimate last week.
Sources: Reuters News, BBC News, Agence France Presse, Associated Press, CNN News, Insurance Insider
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