One person has died after a spark of powerful storms across the Great Plains and midwest region, with tornadoes spotted in Nebraska and Iowa.
A truck driver in eastern Iowa was killed on Wednesday evening after his truck was caught in high winds amid severe weather in the area, causing the semitrailer he was driving to roll over, according to Iowa state patrol.
High winds, snow, and other harsh weather conditions were reported north of the Great Lakes area, according to the National Weather Service. At least 13 tornadoes were reported on Wednesday, December 15, 2021, with high winds clocking in at over 70mph throughout parts of Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa.
“To have this number of damaging wind storms at one time would be unusual any time of year,” said Brian Barjenbruch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley, Nebraska. “But to have this happen in December is really abnormal.”
The storm system came after a slew of tornadoes last weekend that cut through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Kentucky, killing more than 85 people.
Dust created by severe winds in the area also reduced visibility to zero in parts of Kansas, causing at least four semitrailer trucks to blow over, said the Kansas Department of Transportation. Officials in Kansas also closed all state highways across nine counties in the state, including Interstate 70, which runs from the Colorado border to Salina, Kansas, an hour and a half outside the state’s capital.
High wind warnings were also issued for a large area extending from New Mexico to upper Michigan, including Wisconsin and Illinois. Strong wind gusts of 80mph were recorded in the Texas panhandle and in western Kansas, with some areas clocking winds of over 100mph.
In addition to strong winds, experts have warned about fire risk in some areas already affected by high winds due to dry conditions.
Scientists have said that extreme weather events are probably due to human-caused climate change, but trying to find a cause for a specific weather event, such as storms throughout many regions in the US, requires additional analysis that requires time and can be inconclusive.
“I think we also need to stop asking the question of whether or not this event was caused by climate change. All events nowadays are augmented by climate change,” said Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini.
“We need to be asking, ‘to what extent did climate change play a role and how likely was this event to occur in the absence of climate change?”’