US States Hit by Severe ‘Tornado Outbreak’
Six states were struck by devastating and rare long-distance twisters.
By: Laura Valkovic | December 13, 2021 | 584 Words
Six U.S. states have been hit by deadly tornadoes in one of the worst storms seen in recent times. Over one weekend, a group of thunderstorms caused a “tornado outbreak” of 38 tornadoes in six states.
One of the twisters, called the “Quad-State Tornado,” tore through four states: Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Other states hit by the storms were Illinois and Mississippi.
Kentucky was hit severely in the storms. At least 80 people were killed in the disaster, and 14 died in other states. Rescue efforts are underway to save people who may be trapped in the rubble. Thousands of people have lost their homes, and more than 300 National Guardsmen have been helping to clear up the debris from damaged houses. “Nothing that was standing in the direct line of [one] tornado is still standing,” said Kentucky’s governor, Andy Beshear. “I’ve got towns that are gone, that are just, I mean gone. My dad’s hometown – half of it isn’t standing,” he said. He was talking about the town of Dawson Springs, which was left in ruins.
Beshear suggested this was the “most devastating, most deadly tornado event” to ever hit the state. The governor declared a state of emergency. President Joe Biden also declared the storm a major disaster, sending federal money to help with the recovery effort. The funds will go to help damaged areas.
Mayfield, Kentucky, was one of the hardest-hit cities. The roof of a candle factory collapsed in the city, trapping around 100 workers inside. Fortunately, most of the employees have been found alive.
What Caused the Storms?
Even though spring is normally tornado season in the U.S., the storms can happen at any time of year. America is also experiencing La Niña climate effects this winter, a phenomenon that can cause storms to be harsher than normal.
Scott Corder, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the cause for the disaster was a mass of cold air moving into a warm and moist area. He described the storm:
“It looks like the track was anywhere between 160-220 miles, getting its start in Arkansas and then it moved in a southwest-northeast direction going through Missouri Bootheel going through northwest Tennessee and western Kentucky. The main cause of it was a cold front, a very strong cold front where they had abundant moisture in place and a lot of instability.”
It’s possible the Quad-State Tornado will break the record for the furthest-traveling known twister. Until now, the longest track for a tornado was that of the “Tri-State” tornado of 1925, which traveled 219 miles across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Such long-distance tornadoes are rare. Hazard climatologists Alisa Hass and Kelsey Ellis explained at The Conversation:
“Most tornadoes stay on the ground for a short amount of time and travel short distances – 3-4 miles on average. Long-track and very long-track tornadoes – those that travel at least 25 and 100 miles respectively – are relatively uncommon. They account for less than 1% of all tornadoes in the United States.”
Road to Recovery
As people and towns start to face life after so much was destroyed by the natural disaster, Governor Beshear shared a message on Twitter:
“Today Kentucky is absolutely united. We are united with our people; united to find and rescue as many as possible; united to grieve; and united to be here for our impacted families – not just today, but in the years to come so that we can rebuild together.”