Hurricane-force winds, dust storms explode in upper Midwest

Hurricane-force winds, dust storms explode in upper Midwest

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A violent complex of storms raged through the upper Midwest Thursday night, unleashing destructive wind gusts in excess of 100 miles per hour while kicking up a towering wall of dust.

The National Weather Service received more than 200 reports of damaging winds from Kansas to Wisconsin – but the most severe damage was concentrated in a corridor from eastern Nebraska to southwest Minnesota, including eastern South Dakota and northwestern Iowa. Significant structural damage was reported in that zone and about 70,000 people were without power as of Thursday evening.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that one person was killed after a grain bin fell on a car in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, about 85 miles west of the Twin Cities.

The cloud of dust kicked up by the storm created scenes reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. Technically dubbed “Haboob,” it swallowed entire communities as the storm complex, which sped northeast at breakneck speeds of 65 to 85 miles per hour, turned day into night.

The storm complex, which caused widespread damage along an extensive path, met the criteria of a derecho — the meteorological term for an arcing, fast-moving line of violent storms that can produce damage comparable to a hurricane.

The most extreme gust of wind of the evening – 107 miles per hour – was clocked in Hutchinson County, SD, That’s about 50 miles west of Sioux Falls.

Other top gusts were:

  • 102 miles per hour in Deuel County, SD
  • 97 miles per hour in Madison, SD
  • 96 mph at Wentworth, SD
  • 94 miles per hour in Madison, Minnesota.
  • 90 miles per hour in Huron, SD
  • 89 miles per hour in Ord, Neb.
  • 80 miles per hour in Artichoke, Minn.
  • 79 miles per hour in Graceville, Minnesota.
  • 75 miles per hour in Canby, Minnesota.

As of 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, the Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center had received 55 reports of wind gusts exceeding 74 miles per hour. second most frequent record for a calendar day. The record holder for most gusts over 74 miles per hour occurred less than six months ago: December 15, 2021.

Historic storm sweeps across central US, unleashing rare tornadoes in December

The Weather Service also issued numerous tornado warnings due to small areas of rotation embedded in the bow storm complex. As of 9:30 p.m., only two twisters had been confirmed — one damaging two homes and the north side of a school in Castlewood, SD, about 80 miles north of Sioux Falls.

Reports to the weather service showed that the Derecho’s strong winds uprooted trees, downed wires, flattened fences, blew off shingles and in some cases even peeled off entire roofs. Numerous sheds and barns were destroyed.

The Weather Service also received several reports of tractor trailers being blown over; in Holt County, Neb., one person was injured.

The weather service had highlighted the hardest-hit areas, declaring a Level 4 out of 5 risk for severe thunderstorms on Thursday morning, and then issued a severe thunderstorm watch in the afternoon with a “particularly hazardous situation” reserved for the most severe storm potential.

Record heat fueling violent storms in central US

As the storms drew closer, dire warnings were issued, triggering wireless emergency alerts. The warnings called for winds of 80 to 100mph as the storms sped northeast. In a warning for parts of west-central Minnesota, the Twin Cities Weather Service office wrote, “THESE ARE DESTRUCTIVE storms,” ​​noting they could generate winds of 100 miles per hour. “You are in a life-threatening situation,” the warning said.

The event was somewhat reminiscent of the August 2020 Iowa derecho, the costliest thunderstorm disaster in U.S. history.

The storm complex was powered by an expansive heat dome that was responsible for the sinking Record highs from Texas to Maine. The hottest temperatures — relative to normal — were concentrated in the upper Midwest. The storms erupted as that hot air met much cooler air pushing in from the northwest.

As with December’s violent thunderstorm and tornado outbreaks, the intensity of this event raises questions about the possible role of human-caused climate change. December’s outbreaks were similarly fueled by record temperatures made more likely by climate change.

December tornadoes are not uncommon, but the Quad-State outbreak was something else entirely

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