Severe weather caused power outages, damage, and flooding in several states on Thursday, and forecasters warn of more storms over the weekend.
The Great Lakes area was hit by tornadoes on Thursday, August 24, 2023, causing a power outage and destruction. There are further warnings for the weekend.
Tornadoes touch down in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), at least 10 tornadoes were confirmed in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania on Thursday, as a powerful storm system moved across the region. The tornadoes ranged from EF-0 to EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with winds up to 135 mph.
The tornadoes damaged homes, businesses, trees, and power lines, leaving more than 700,000 customers without electricity in Michigan alone. Some of the hardest-hit areas were Armada, White Lake Township, and Pontiac in Michigan; Wauseon and Delta in Ohio; and Fayette County in Pennsylvania.
No fatalities or serious injuries were reported, but some residents had close calls with the twisters. For example, a woman in Armada said she hid in her basement with her dog as a tornado ripped apart her house. “It sounded like a freight train coming through,” she told CNN.
Heavy rain and flooding add to the misery
The storm system also brought heavy rain and flooding to parts of the Great Lakes area, especially in Wisconsin and Illinois. Some areas received more than 5 inches of rain in 24 hours, causing flash floods that submerged roads and vehicles.
The NWS issued flash flood warnings and watches for several counties in Wisconsin and Illinois on Thursday and Friday, urging people to avoid driving through flooded areas. “Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads. Most flood deaths occur in vehicles,” the NWS warned.
The heavy rain also caused some rivers and lakes to rise above their normal levels, posing a threat of river flooding. The NWS said that some minor to moderate flooding was possible along the Fox River, the Rock River, and Lake Michigan over the next few days4.
More storms on the way for the weekend
The NWS said that the storm system that caused the tornadoes and flooding was moving eastward on Friday, bringing showers and thunderstorms to parts of New York, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic. However, another storm system was developing over the Plains and Midwest, which could bring more severe weather to the Great Lakes area over the weekend5.
The NWS said that there was a slight to enhanced risk of severe thunderstorms for parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri on Saturday and Sunday. The main threats from these storms were large hail, damaging winds, heavy rain, and isolated tornadoes.
The NWS advised people to stay alert and prepared for changing weather conditions over the weekend. “Have multiple ways to receive warnings and updates. Know where to go if a warning is issued for your area. Have a plan for you and your family,” the NWS said.
Tornado Watch vs Warning
A tornado watch and a tornado warning are two different types of alerts issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) to inform the public about the risk of tornadoes. Here is a summary of the difference between them:
A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop in a broad area. It does not mean that there is a tornado. A tornado watch is usually issued for four to six hours and covers multiple counties or states. If a tornado watch is issued, you should be alert and prepared for changing weather conditions. You should have your supplies ready, choose a safe place to shelter, and have a plan to get there in case a tornado develops.
A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted or detected by radar in a specific area. It means that there is a tornado. A tornado warning is usually issued for 30 minutes or less and covers a smaller area, such as a city or a county. If a tornado warning is issued, you should seek shelter immediately and get to your safe place until the threat has passed.
What is Tornado Alley
Tornadoes are violent rotating columns of air that form from thunderstorms and touch the ground. Tornado Alley covers parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and sometimes other nearby states. The term was first used in 1952 by a meteorologist who was studying severe weather in these areas.
Tornado Alley has the right conditions for tornadoes to form, such as warm and humid air near the ground, cold and dry air above, and strong winds that change direction and speed with height. These conditions create instability and wind shear, which are necessary for tornadoes to develop. Tornado Alley is also located in the path of the jet stream, which is a fast-moving current of air that influences the weather patterns.
Tornado Alley is not an official designation by the National Weather Service, and its boundaries are not clear. Different criteria can be used to define Tornado Alley, such as the frequency, intensity, or area of tornadoes. Some studies suggest that Tornado Alley may be shifting eastward or expanding over time due to climate change or other factors. Other regions of the United States, such as Dixie Alley in the Southeast or Florida, also experience tornadoes, but they are usually less powerful or less common than those in Tornado Alley.
Tornadoes can cause a lot of damage and danger to people and property. They can destroy buildings, vehicles, power lines, trees, and crops. They can also injure or kill people and animals. The strongest tornadoes can have winds over 300 mph and last for more than an hour. The most destructive tornado in U.S. history was the Tri-State Tornado of 1925, which killed 695 people and injured 2,027 across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.
Tornadoes are hard to predict and prevent, but there are ways to prepare and protect yourself from them. You should have a plan and a safe place to go if a tornado warning is issued for your area. You should also have a kit with emergency supplies, such as water, food, flashlight, radio, batteries, first aid kit, etc. You should stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls during a tornado. You should also follow the instructions of local authorities and weather services before, during, and after a tornado.
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