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News / Nation & World

Storms have dropped large hail, buckets of rain and tornadoes across the Midwest. And more is coming

By MARGERY A. BECK, Associated Press
Published: May 21, 2024, 12:39pm

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Residents in Omaha, Nebraska, awoke to weather sirens blaring and widespread power outages early Tuesday morning as torrential rain, high winds and large hail pummeled the area hours before a new round of storms swept into Iowa and threatened more of the Midwest.

More than 10,000 customers were without power in and around Omaha in the early morning, and the deluge of more than 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain in less than two hours in some areas saw basements flooded and cars submerged in low-lying areas. That downpour, combined with rain earlier in the nighttime hours, brought the total to 8 inches (20.23 centimeters) in the region, according to the National Weather Service.

Television station KETV showed video of several vehicles overtaken by rushing water on a low-lying street in north-central Omaha and firefighters arriving to rescue people inside.

While officials had not confirmed tornadoes in the area, there were confirmed reports of hurricane-force winds, said weather service meteorologist Becky Kern.

“We have a 90 mph (145 kph) gust measured at Columbus,” Kern said. Columbus is about 87 miles (140 kilometers) west of Omaha.

On Tuesday afternoon, the weather service issued another round of tornado warnings in eastern Nebraska and parts of southwestern Iowa. The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center gave most of Iowa a high chance of seeing severe thunderstorms with the potential for strong tornadoes later in the afternoon and into the evening.

Des Moines public schools ended classes two hours early Tuesday and canceled all evening activities as the warnings of severe weather ramped up.

“It definitely could be a dangerous situation here,” said weather service meteorologist Marvin Percha, based in Des Moines.

The storms follow days of extreme weather that have ravaged much of the middle section of the country. Strong winds, large hail and tornadoes swept parts of Oklahoma and Kansas late Sunday, damaging homes and injuring two in Oklahoma. Another round of storms Monday night raked Colorado and western Nebraska and saw the city of Yuma, Colorado, blanketed in hail, turning streets into rivers of water and ice.

Last week, deadly storms hit the Houston area in Texas, killing at least seven. Those storms Thursday knocked out power to hundreds of thousands for days, leaving those Texans in the dark and without air conditioning during hot and humid weather. Hurricane-force winds reduced businesses and other structures to debris and shattered glass in downtown skyscrapers.

The storms continued their march across the Midwest on Tuesday and were expected to bring much of the same high winds, heavy rain and large hail to Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and part of northern Missouri, said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service.

“The best chance of severe weather is going to be large hail and high wind, but there’s also a lesser chance of tornadoes,” Oravec said.

He said the system is expected to turn south on Wednesday, bring more severe weather to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and southern Missouri.