UNITED STATES NEWS

After deadly Oklahoma tornado, storms bring twisters to the Midwest

May 6, 2024, 9:34 PM | Updated: May 7, 2024, 7:54 pm

DETROIT (AP) — Severe storms battered the Midwest on Tuesday, unleashing a curtain of heavy rain, gusty winds and tornadoes throughout the region a day after a deadly twister ripped through a small Oklahoma town and killed at least one person.

Tornadoes were spotted after dark Tuesday in parts of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, while portions of Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri were also under a tornado watch, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecasters warned that the storms could stretch late into the night with the possibility of more twisters and large hail.

In southwestern Michigan, two tornadoes blitzed the city of Portage near Kalamazoo. The sheriff’s office there said multiple trees and power lines were down in the area. A FedEx building was destroyed, debris left resting on delivery vehicles, but a company spokesperson said there were no serious injuries despite the severe damage.

An estimated 50 people were trapped inside the FedEx facility as of 9:30 p.m., said Taylor Koopman, a spokesperson for the county administrator.

“First responders are actively looking for ways to get them out, but there are wires down in the building that they need the power company to clear before they can safely go in,” Koopman said, citing the sheriff’s office.

Meanwhile, entire homes were destroyed in the Pavilion Estates mobile home park, she said.

The National Weather Service’s Eight of the twisters were in Oklahoma, while Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Tennessee all saw at least one tornado.

The powerful storms come amid a wild swing in severe weather across the globe that includes some of the worst-ever flooding in Brazil and a brutal Asian heat wave.

The deadly tornado that touched down Monday night in Oklahoma ripped through the 1,000-person town of Barnsdall, about a 40-minute drive north of Tulsa. The National Weather Service there had warned Monday evening that “a large and life-threatening tornado” was headed toward Barnsdall and the nearby town of Bartlesville.

It was the second tornado to hit Barnsdall in five weeks — a twister on April 1 with maximum wind speeds of 90 to 100 mph (145 to 161 kph) damaged homes and blew down trees and power poles.

Barnsdall Mayor Johnny Kelley said one person was dead while one man was missing after Monday’s twister. Authorities launched a secondary search Tuesday morning for the missing man.

“The toughest thing on me as the mayor is this is a small community,” Kelley said. “I know 75% to 80% of the people in this town.”

At least 30 to 40 homes in the Barnsdall area were damaged Monday night, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.

Aerial videos showed several well-built homes reduced to piles of rubble and others with roofs torn off and damaged walls still standing. The powerful twister tossed vehicles, downed power lines and stripped limbs and bark from trees across the town. A 160-acre (65-hectare) wax manufacturing facility in the community also sustained heavy damage.

First responders rescued about 25 people, including children, from heavily damaged homes where buildings had collapsed on or around them, Kelley said. About a half dozen people suffered injuries, he said.

The Barnsdall Nursing Home said it evacuated residents because a gas leak could not be turned off due to storm damage. It later posted online that all residents were accounted for with no injuries, and they were being taken to other facilities.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who toured the twister’s damage on Tuesday, said it was rated by weather researchers as a violent tornado with wind speeds up to 200 mph (322 kph). Stitt said he and legislative leaders have agreed to set aside $45 million in this year’s budget to help storm-damaged communities.

“Oklahomans are resilient,” Stitt said, “and we’re going to rebuild.”

At the Hampton Inn in Bartlesville, several splintered 2x4s were driven into the south side of the building. Chunks of insulation, twisted metal and other debris were scattered over the hotel’s lawn, and vehicles in the parking lot were heavily damaged with smashed-out windows.

Matthew Macedo, who was staying at the hotel, said he was ushered into the hotel laundry room to wait out the storm.

“When the impact occurred, it was incredibly sudden,” he said.

The storms tore through Oklahoma as areas, including Sulphur and Holdenville, were still recovering from a tornado that killed four and left thousands without power late last month. Both the Plains and Midwest have been hammered by tornadoes this spring.

Oklahoma and Kansas had been under a high-risk weather warning Monday. The last time such a warning was issued was March 31, 2023, when a massive storm system tore through parts of the South and Midwest including Arkansas, Illinois and rural Indiana.

The entire week is looking stormy across the U.S. The eastern U.S. and the South are expected to get the brunt of the bad weather through the rest of the week, including in Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Cincinnati, cities where more than 21 million people live. It should be clear over the weekend.

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Murphy reported from Oklahoma City and Salter from O’Fallon, Missouri. Associated Press writers Rio Yamat in Las Vegas; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Colleen Slevin in Denver; Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland; and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.

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Alexa St. John is an Associated Press climate solutions reporter. Follow her on X: @alexa_stjohn. Reach her at ast.john@ap.org.

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The Associated Press’ climate and environmental coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at AP.org.

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After deadly Oklahoma tornado, storms bring twisters to the Midwest