More severe weather hit the United States on April 14 and 15, spawning dozens of tornadoes that killed at least five people and caused widespread property damage, according to reports. The National Weather Service (NWS) reported a preliminary estimate of 111 tornadoes in the six states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota, the majority of them in Kansas. Reports said the severe weather also brought strong winds, heavy rain and large hail. Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa were particularly badly hit by the severe weather.
According to the NWS, the U.S. tornado season has seen above average activity so far this year. As of April 15, there were 520 preliminary reports of tornadoes in the United States, 147 more than the average of 373 recorded between 2005 and 2011. The latest storms follow other severe weather outbreaks that hit Midwest regions in late February, southern and central regions in early March and parts of Texas in early April. According to the Property Claims Service (PCS), the storms in early March caused an insured loss of USD1.2 billion. More recently, the tornado outbreak that hit Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth area, on April 2 and 3 could trigger claims worth between USD300 million and USD500 million, according to the Southwestern Insurance Information Service.
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The latest tornado outbreak to hit the United States occurred on April 14 and 15 when 111 tornadoes (a preliminary estimate) struck Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota, according to the NWS. More than 200 strong wind and hail events were also reported by the NWS, causing widespread damage and disruption from Texas to Minnesota.
Early reports suggest the damage and disruption has been widespread, with the states of Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa particularly badly hit. The NWS said this one storm system spawned at least a “month’s worth” of tornadoes in Kansas. Officials reported significant property damage across the affected region while power was cut to tens of thousands of people after the high winds downed trees and power lines.
State emergency teams have begun preliminary damage assessments for the storms but officials said it will take days or weeks to tally the damage.
The NWS has reported around 10 tornadoes in northwestern Oklahoma and reports indicate that the severe weather has caused widespread damage and disruption in the region. Woodward was badly hit after a tornado ripped through the city, killing at least five people after warning sirens failed to sound, officials said. Another 29 people were injured in Woodward. Officials said the severe weather also destroyed more than 100 buildings in the city, predominantly in western areas, and significant damage was reported elsewhere in northern Oklahoma, prompting Governor Mary Fallin to declare a state of emergency in 12 counties.
Significant damage has also been reported in Kansas after around 75 tornadoes touched down in the state. Central and southern parts of the state bore the brunt of the storms, including the city of Wichita. Officials said a tornado missed downtown Wichita and heavily populated neighborhoods but passed through areas to the south and east where there are mobile home parks and a number of aircraft-related manufacturers, including Boeing and Sprit AeroSystems. Around 100 mobile homes were reportedly damaged and ten buildings at the Spirit AeroSystems plant were also damaged, prompting the company to shut down the facility. Reports said the severe weather also damaged a hangar at the McConnell Air Force Base, while a possible tornado is thought to have struck the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Storm damage was also reported at the nearby Kansas Aviation Museum, including its B47 display. A preliminary assessment by city and county officials said the damage in the Wichita area could be as much as USD283 million. Governor Sam Brownback has issued a declaration of disaster emergency.
Southern parts of Iowa were badly affected by the severe weather, with reports of six tornadoes hitting the state on April 14. The NWS said the most damaging tornado to hit the state was preliminarily rated EF2 with winds of up to 135 mph. Reports said this tornado caused a half-mile wide damage path over 10 miles, devastating the town of Thurman, where officials said up to 90 percent of the homes were damaged or destroyed. No fatalities were reported in Thurman after officials evacuated the entire population of the town. Property damage was reported elsewhere in the state, including in the town of Creston. Officials said a confirmed tornado struck a hospital here, blowing out windows and damaging the roof.
Sources: Reuters News, BBC News, Agence France Presse, Associated Press, CNN News
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