Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Death Toll Reaches Nine in Latest Midwestern Storms

PHOTO: Storm inflow moving south being sucked from the north into a half-mile-wide tornado as it moves north in Canadian County, Okla. just south of SH-3, west of SH-4 moving Tuesday, May 24, 2011.

The death toll from the latest severe weather in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas rose to nine early Wednesday morning, according to the Associated Press, while the National Weather Service reports that the tornado has "destroyed the full town" of Denning, Ark., which had a population of 270.

Over large stretches of the Midwest, including the ravaged city of Joplin, Mo., residents braced for a new wave of severe weather early Wednesday. Rescue workers in Joplin continued the search for survivors in the rubble left by Sunday's massive EF-5 tornado that has left at least 124 in the city dead and leveled at least 30 percent of the town of approximately 50,000.

The giant storm tearing across the Midwest reportedly has multiple tornadoes inside and is producing 70 mile per hour winds and baseball size hail.

AccuWeather confirmed that a tornado moved through Denning, which sits about 160 miles south of Joplin, early Wednesday.

Meteorologist John Dlugoenski of AccuWeather described it as a "large wedge tornado." These types of tornadoes, he reports, because the most damage because of their width. The NWS reports that the tornado was up to a mile wide right before it hit Denning.

The tornado that hit Denning is part of the same storm system that tore through Joplin on Sunday.

"It was on the ground for quite a while, probably something approaching 20 miles on the ground. And for what we could see on radar, we would believe it was large. it was probably somewhere on the order of a half mile to maybe even a mile wide at times," Steve Piltz, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Tulsa, Oklahoma said Wednesday.

Severe weather has also been spotted in very densely populated sections of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The National Weather Service also reported a large wide wedge tornado just southeast of Dallas in Hutchins, Texas at approximately 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. Flights were reportedly grounded in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and local news reported that passengers were being pulled off of planes on the tarmac.

Throughout Wednesday severe weather will continue throughout the Midwest, with the greatest risk for tornadoes from Little Rock to Memphis, and in Paducah, Ky., St. Louis, Mo., Peoria, Ill., Louisville, Ky. and Indianapolis, Ind., according to

Two tornadoes that passed through Oklahoma Tuesday also left dozens of people injured and hundreds displaced; five people died in Kansas, two died in Oklahoma, and two died in Arkansas, according to the Associated Press.

The storms moved into the Joplin area between around 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night as a funnel cloud was spotted about 10 miles from the city by trained weather spotters.

The city is still reeling from the EF-5 tornado that tore through the city on Sunday, the deadliest single tornado in more than 50 years.

Bernie Rayno, expert senior meteorologist at said that a strengthening jet stream combined with "directional sheer," meaning changing wind speeds at different atmospheric heights, are textbook factors in tornado creation.

"There are not enough quotes to describe what could happen tonight," Rayno told ABC News.

The threat of more tornadoes comes as search and rescue teams struggle to find survivors. More than 750 people were injured in the storm Sunday that caused widespread devastation to the small Midwestern town.

A Joplin, Mo., Tornado Recovery Facebook page has been created for people reaching out for information about lost loved ones.

Details have emerged that the massive tornado may have had two cyclones inside -- called "a multiple vortex."

"You don't go to bed at night thinking something like this would happen," Gov. Jay Nixon said this morning. "I was down here for graduation on Saturday, gym was filled with 4,000 of the happiest people you're ever going to see and the next thing I hear is that we've got a tornado coming and 24 hours later we're down here looking at this."

President Obama said this morning that he will visit the tornado-ravaged state of Missouri this weekend after he returns from Europe.

Speaking from the Ambassador's House in London, where he and Michelle Obama arrived earlier today, Obama called the outbreak of tornadoes "devastating and heartbreaking," while he reassured those affected by the storms that "every ounce of resources the federal government may have" will be used in recovery efforts.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are suffering at this moment," Obama said. "And all we can do is let them know that all of America cares deeply about them and that we are going to do absolutely everything we can to make sure that they recover."

Obama also acknowledged that more storms are headed for the region today, as a warning of new tornado outbreaks was issued for the central region of the United States by an Oklahoma storm prediction center. Long-form, long-track, very powerful tornadoes are expected throughout Tuesday.

The greatest threat for tornadoes stretches from Dallas to Kansas City, according to the report. The area includes Joplin, Mo., where rescue workers are racing to salvage survivors from the wreckage left by a tornado that destroyed an estimated 30 percent of the city on Sunday.

The massive Joplin tornado was rated as an EF-5, the strongest classification, with winds ranging above 200 mph. The nearly mile-wide funnel touched down at 5:41 p.m. CT Sunday and blasted a six mile wide path through the city and left trapped survivors crying out for help this morning.

The tornado that struck Flint, Mich., on June 8, 1953 and killed 116 people had been the deadliest single tornado on record since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began keeping track of tornado fatalities in 1950.

The lethal twister has also made 2011 the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1953, with 454 deaths from 1,000 tornadoes so far, according to NOAA.

April also set a record as the deadliest month with 361 tornado-related deaths, according to NOAA's records.