A tornado in southeastern Minnesota was the first ever reported in the state in the month of December, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. Nearly 20 tornado reports were documented Wednesday across Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.
“I’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’re seeing things today in the CNN Weather Center we have never seen before,” CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said.
The storm is forecast to taper off, with many of the severe thunderstorm watches and warnings expiring overnight.
Several places in Colorado, including the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, reported wind gusts of 100 mph or greater Wednesday, according to the weather service. Winds gusting up to 107 mph in Lamar toppled semitrucks, ripped off roofs and downed trees, Mayor Kirk Crespin said.
Parts of Interstate 70 in western Kansas were shut down due to blowing dust, reduced visibility, and crashes, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Wildfires in Texas and Kansas force evacuations
An evacuation order was placed for the town of Guymon, Oklahoma, due to one of nine wildfires in western and northwestern Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
Several hundred people were told “to evacuate or be prepared to evacuate” in the city of Iowa Park, Texas, in Wichita County in the northern part of the state. Two fires in the county are ongoing.
“The fire has changed direction a couple of times,” Wichita County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Melvin Joyner said, adding “we’re working as hard as we can to keep residents safe.”
A 2,500-acre blaze is burning west of Amarillo, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported, and the agency is responding to the fires in Wichita County.
Six homes and two other structures were reported damaged in the Texas Panhandle city of Pampa, according to a city announcement. No injuries were reported.
Kentucky still assessing damage from last week
The tornado had a maximum path width of a mile or more and was on the ground for at least 128 miles, tracking across the entire area of responsibility for the weather service’s Paducah office. The tornado took more than two hours to move through western Kentucky.
The tornado length will likely increase as weather service offices near Paducah continue their surveys in the coming days, and the rating could be increased as well as more damage is surveyed.
“The scope and scale of this destruction is almost beyond belief,” he said in Dawson Springs. “These tornadoes devoured everything in their path.”
Biden pledged federal funding for the recovery effort for the next 30 days, including “debris removal, cost of overtime and law enforcement, emergency service personnel and shelter, and that will get you through.”
Kentucky’s confirmed death toll from the tornadoes has been updated to 71 from 74 due to duplicate reporting, according to Kentucky Emergency Management. At least 14 others died in four other states.
CNN’s Dave Hennen, Robert Shackelford, Raja Razek, Joe Sutton, DJ Judd, Melissa Alonso, Amy Simonson and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.
More hurricane-force wind gusts were reported across the US in a single day than ever before