April 12, 2024

Storms cause damage throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee; millions of people continue to face severe weather warnings

A wave of destructive storms battered multiple states on Tuesday and caused damage in the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, with several tornado watches affecting millions of people and severe weather warnings spreading across a much wider swath of the country, from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes.

High winds and heavy rain had already caused severe damage in some areas by mid-afternoon, destroying buildings and forcing highway closures as crews worked to clear downed power lines, trees and other debris.

Where were the storms the loudest?

Large parts of Ohio and Kentucky faced the most serious risks, along with part of far eastern Indiana. The latest severe weather outlook from the Storm Prediction Center ranked threats in parts of those states at Level 4, out of five levels, just before noon CDT. Level 4 on that scale corresponds to ‘moderate’. Much of Kentucky and southern Ohio received that warning, including major cities such as Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Lexington and Louisville.

A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of central Kentucky and Tennessee, including Nashville and surrounding areas. They expire at 3 p.m. CDT, although meteorologists warned that powerful “and potentially long-range tornadoes are possible from Indiana and Ohio southward into the Mid-South” during the evening.

Storm Prediction Center / National Weather Service

“A threat for strong tornadoes may be concentrated in parts of Alabama and Georgia tonight into this evening,” the storm forecast center said.

A separate tornado watch was in effect Tuesday until 6 p.m. CDT for parts of Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Southwest Indiana and Southeast Missouri. A tornado watch remains in effect until 2 a.m. EDT for parts of Middle and East Tennessee. About 40,000 homes and businesses were without power Tuesday morning after an electrical substation was struck by lightning, the AP reported. The single substation affected two other stations and caused the power outage.

Overall, forecasts expected an outbreak of severe thunderstorms could affect parts of each of these states throughout Tuesday, in addition to northeastern Mississippi, southeastern Illinois and southwestern Virginia, noting “some intense” tornadoes were among the top hazards, along with damaging and potentially dangerous consequences. hurricane-force winds and scattered hail that could be the size of a baseball in some places.

Winds are considered “hurricane force” on the Saffir-Simpson scale when their sustained speed reaches 74 miles per hour or higher.

Roads in Charleston, West Virginia, were littered with rocks blocking traffic and in some counties, trees littered roadways, lawns and cars, the AP reported. Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for Fayette, Kanawha, Lincoln and Nicholas counties and urged people to “exercise extreme caution.”

A state of emergency was also declared in Kentucky as storms swept through the area, and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said in a statement obtained by the AP; “We have reports of significant damage to a number of structures – and fortunately we are not aware of any fatalities to date.”

How are tornado watches and tornado warnings different?

All thunderstorms can produce tornadoes, but for that to happen the atmospheric conditions must be unstable in some way. Meteorologists will issue a tornado warning when a combination of atmospheric conditions and severe weather conditions indicate that the formation of a tornado in the area is possible, but this does not necessarily mean a tornado will occur.

When a tornado warning has been issued, it means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar and there is immediate danger to life and property. The National Weather Service recommends that if a warning is issued, go to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building, so those outside or traveling should go to shelter to protect themselves from flying debris .

Images of storm damage from the tornadoes

Powerful storms had already uprooted trees in Kentucky on Tuesday afternoon. CBS affiliate WKYT shared video of some of the damage, including large branches, logs and other debris scattered across an intersection in a residential area of ​​Lexington. In Nicholasville, another nearby city, authorities said they were investigating “a significant weather event” affecting an industrial area. Images shared on social media appeared to show at least one structure partially torn apart after the incident.

“We responded to a significant weather event,” a spokesperson for the Nicholasville Police Department said in a statement to CBS News. “No injuries have been reported.”

Meanwhile, a series of brutal storms tore through parts of West Virginia all day Tuesday, with video showing powerful wind gusts picking up debris in the city of Charleston. The National Weather Service said radar indicated there was a tornado in the Charleston area Tuesday morning. Meteorologists predicted that these storms would weaken to some extent as the system moved toward Virginia.

Severe weather West Virginia
A tree covers a road after severe storms occurred in Cross Lanes, West Virginia on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

John Raby/AP

The tumultuous storm system tore through other parts of the country as it continued travel east. Earlier, as Oklahoma was hit, a 46-year-old woman in Tulsa was swept away by flooding Monday evening. Andy Little, the public information officer for the Tulsa Fire Department, told CBS News that the search was still underway for her as of Tuesday morning.

Are the heavy storms over?

Looking ahead to the rest of the week, meteorologists said there is “a small risk” that regions along much of the East Coast and somewhat inland could be hit by strong and severe storms on Wednesday. These storms could potentially bring hail, damaging winds and a tornado or two to places within the risk area, from the Chesapeake Bay to Florida.

There will be rain and some sleet in eastern Massachusetts during the day on Wednesday and there will be sleet and possible snow accumulation at night. Sleet will fall at higher elevations in central and western Massachusetts.

Pittsburgh stays down a flood watch through Wednesday morning. Electric utilities prepare for high winds, hail and heavy winds that can damage electrical equipment and lead to power outages.

Maryland heavy thunderstorms can occur Severe lightning and heavy rain showers are possible through Wednesday. and hail.

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