Tornadoes, large hail striking Midwestern, Plains states
A particularly nasty April storm caused a handful of tornadoes, and brought strong rains and thunderstorms in the central United States.
As night fell Tuesday, there were tornado warnings in Oklahoma and Texas while states like Kansas and Kentucky were getting blasted by thunderstorms, radar showed. A flash flood warning was in effect for western parts of Kansas City through early Wednesday morning.
Five tornadoes were spotted in four states — Texas, Indiana, Kansas and Missouri — according to the National Weather Service.
Another one may have struck Oklahoma, but it has not been confirmed by the National Weather Service.
McIntosh County Emergency Manager Harry Trottier said a tornado ripped through the middle of the town of Checotah, Oklahoma according to various spotters. He also said there are no reports of injuries, but the storm did cause a major gas leak.
One person was injured in Grayson County, Texas — where a tornado was spotted — according to officials.
More than 17,000 customers in Oklahoma lost power, according to electric companies in the state.
Thunder and lightning were also omnipresent in the region; about 11,000 lightning strikes were recorded during a 30 minute period late Tuesday from Kansas City south to Dallas, according to CNN Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.
And there were more than 180 reports of hail-related damage.
It appears that the tornado threat is likely nearing its end, Javaheri says. But straight-line winds — which could reach up to 80 mph — lightning and rain are expected to continue as the storm heads east.
Matthew Day, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma, told CNN there were two circulations in northeast Oklahoma City, but the darkness prevented spotters from confirming if either was a tornado.
Police officers were headed to the area to help assess the damage, said Christie Yeager, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City emergency management office.
“The storm pushed through most of the city and touched down towards the very edge of the city. That’s the good news,” she said. There weren’t yet reports of damage.
Earlier, the National Weather Service said one tornado had been spotted Tuesday night about 25 miles west of Bloomington, Indiana, and another was seen to the south in Vanderburgh County.
Amy Mangold with Evansville Emergency Management said there were no reports of injuries but there were initial descriptions of trees down and poles that had fallen on buildings.
In Kansas, the weather service’s office in Wichita said Tuesday evening that there were several reports of hail bigger than golf balls.
One resident of the city posted a photo of a piece of hail almost as big as her palm.
At the airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, passenger Leah Wilmington had to sit on a plane as torrential rain prevented her departure.
“Hmm I think I’m going to miss my connection…,” she wrote, the rain so heavy it was difficult to see the planes at nearby gates.
At least two Oklahoma school districts decided the threat was significant enough to shut down for the day. Others opted to dismiss early, citing the threat of severe weather.
Among them: public schools in Moore, Oklahoma, where a 2013 tornado that ravaged the city flattened a school building, killing seven children.
Forecasters advised people in the storm-threatened areas to prepare.
“Make sure you have a severe weather plan for you and your family,” Bunting said. “If you don’t, today is the day to develop it.”
Among his tips ahead of the storms:
• Know where to seek shelter in your home or building.
• Have a way to get in touch with family or friends, or set a designated meeting point, to let them know you’re OK after the storm.
• Have multiple ways of receiving information and weather alerts, including a weather radio and weather apps on your smartphone. Also make sure your phone is set to receive emergency weather alerts. In some phones it’s under general settings, and in others, it’s in the message settings.