Destructive tornadoes and storms pummel Michigan Tuesday, and millions more face a similar threat Wednesday

by 24USATVMay 8, 2024, 3 p.m. 25
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Powerful tornadoes and storms swept through southwestern Michigan Tuesday evening, destroying homes and businesses and injuring several residents, scenes that could play out once again in the central and eastern US Wednesday.

At least a dozen people were injured at a mobile home park in Pavilion Township following a tornado Tuesday, according to a county official. The township is located in Kalamazoo County, where 15 to 20 people had minor injuries and were transported to two area hospitals, according to the county’s emergency management spokesperson Andrew Alspach.

In the neighboring city of Portage, about 7 miles south of Kalamazoo, pictures and videos showed a FedEx facility with significant roof and structural damage after a storm hit the area Tuesday evening. However, there were no serious injuries, a FedEx representative told CNN.

About 50 people were trapped in the building due to downed wires, Taylor Koopman, a spokesperson for Kalamazoo County administrator’s office, told MLive.com, adding work to clear the wires was ongoing as of 9:30 p.m. ET. However, city of Portage spokesperson Mary Beth Block told CNN in an email the building had been cleared by authorities.

At least one tornado, possibly two, hit the Portage area Tuesday, as the area faced two tornado warnings in just over an hour, the National Weather Service said.

“We have significant damage, including damage to residential and commercial buildings, trees down across many roads in the city, and several reports of gas leaks,” Portage city officials said in a news release.

The city pleaded with its residents to “stay home” and “please stay off the roads. First responders are stuck in gridlock.”

Multiple buildings, residential and commercial, were destroyed after a possible tornado touched down in Centreville on Tuesday, according to St. Joseph County Undersheriff Jason Bingaman. The storm damage ripped off roofs and flattened homes “completely down,” Bingaman told CNN.

In Branch County, about 60 miles south of Kalamazoo, at least seven homes were destroyed, according to Emergency Management Director Tim Miner, who added he was unable to get out and assess damage to other parts of the county.

Tornadoes in Michigan are infrequent to begin with, but Union City, in Branch County, faced an unprecedented situation. The city was placed under Michigan’s first tornado emergency when “a large and destructive tornado” was over the area, about 10 miles northwest of Coldwater and moving northeast at 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Tornado emergencies are the most extreme form of a tornado warning and only issued when a tornado threatens catastrophic damage and loss of life, often in a populated area.

According to the Storm Prediction Center, at least 10 tornadoes were reported in Michigan on Tuesday. Hail the size of softballs was also reported in some parts of the state.

More than 30,000 homes and businesses in Michigan were left without power as of early Wednesday, according to poweroutage.us.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said her heart was going out to those impacted by the severe weather in southwest Michigan. The governor declared a state of emergency for Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Branch and Cass counties, she said Tuesday night.

“We will work with emergency teams overnight to monitor the situation and coordinate resources for those affected. Michigan is strong and together we will rebuild,” the governor said.

After Tuesday brought tornadoes, large hail, damaging wind gusts and heavy rainfall mainly across the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley, a large area of the eastern and central US will face rounds of storms Wednesday. More than 145 million people could see some sort of storms Wednesday from Texas to Maine.

Nearly 4 million people are under a Level 4 of 5 risk of severe thunderstorms Wednesday, according to the Storm Prediction Center. Within this risk are parts of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee — including Nashville.

An additional 50 million people from Texas, through much of the Ohio Valley and into the mid-Atlantic, are under a Level 2 of 5 or Level 3 of 5 risk.

Severe storms started to bubble to life around sunrise in parts of eastern Kansas. These storms will expand in scope and strength through the morning and push into parts of Missouri. This morning activity will heavily influence how the rest of the day unfolds.

If morning storms form into a powerful and organized line, damaging winds will be the biggest threat into the afternoon hours. Hail and tornadoes will also be possible. If this organized line doesn’t form, the threat for individual storms to produce strong tornadoes – at least EF2 strength – will increase.

Parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee face the greatest risk of strong tornadoes, especially from the afternoon onward.

Additional storms will fire up from the Southern Plains to the mid-Atlantic throughout the afternoon. Storms capable of the strongest winds and largest hail are most likely from Texas to Kentucky and Tennessee, but any storm could unload damaging wind gusts and hail up to the size of softballs.

Some areas may encounter an initial round of severe storms early Wednesday only to be hit with another round later in the day.

The repeated rounds of storms Wednesday will also deliver torrential rainfall and raise the risk of flooding.

“The greatest flash flooding threat also overlaps with the risk of severe thunderstorms, centered over Kentucky and Tennessee as well sections of neighboring states,” the National Weather Service said. A Level 3 of 4 risk of flooding rainfall is in place here, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

Rainfall rates could reach 2 inches per hour, which could dramatically increase the possibility of flash flooding. Locations worked over by multiple heavy storms could record more than 4 to 5 inches of rain.

There have been 13 consecutive days of tornado reports across US

Spring is known for severe storms and tornadoes - and Spring 2024 is no exception. There has been at least one tornado report every day since April 25, a streak of 13 consecutive days, according to the Storm Prediction Center. A total of 287 tornadoes were reported in that time span.

April to June is peak tornado season across the US, with May traditionally seeing the most tornadoes. This month is coming off a particularly active April, where there were 300 tornadoes, the second most on record, according to the center. The all-time record occurred in April 2011, when there were 757 tornadoes.

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