Tornado Watch: At Least 50 Reported Dead in Storms Across South, Midwest

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo credit: Laura Hedien via Getty Images)

As the year draws to a close, few people have the threat of dangerous weather on their minds. At the very least, most believe that they’ve left tornadoes and severe storms in their rearview mirror for the year. That’s not the case today.

Tornadoes ripped through several Southern and Midwestern states last night. Homes and businesses lay devastated in their wake. At the same time, roads are closed, many are without power, and families are left to worry about unaccounted-for loved ones.

The Today Show shared their report on the unusual weather with their Twitter follower this morning. The damage, even at a glance, is devastating.

According to Today’s Morgan Chesky, tornadoes struck multiple states overnight. For instance, several are assumed dead after a tornado crushed a Mayfield, Kentucky candle factory. At the time of his report, authorities feared that twelve Kentuckians lay dead in the ruins of the factory. KY Governor Andy Beshear says the total death toll from that storm will most likely land between 70 and 100 people. This, he says, might have been the most severe storm in the state’s history.

To the west, a tornado cut a 100-mile-long path through Northeast Arkansas. The severe storms destroyed nursing homes in two Arkansas towns. In Monette, the tornado killed at least one patient at the Monette Manor Nursing Home. In Trumann, the tornado destroyed another nursing home. The report doesn’t mention any casualties. However, the storm caused road closures and power outages. Additionally, the severe storms hit the town’s fire department, limiting rescue capabilities.

Storms in the Midwest

The Midwest saw severe storms last night as well. Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky saw the bulk of last night’s tornadoes, but Illinois also experienced unseasonably severe weather. Strong winds ripped through Edwardsville, Illinois and destroyed an Amazon warehouse, trapping hundreds inside. The storm also caused power outages in the area which left many families cut off from their loved ones inside the warehouse. At the time of the Today Show report, search and rescue efforts were underway in Edwardsville as well as several other communities in affected areas.

Severe Storms and Tornadoes are Rare for December

Nashville-based WKRN reports that last night’s system of severe storms produced six tornadoes in Middle Tennessee alone. Lead forecaster Sam Shamburger spoke about the rarity of tornadoes in December. “Seeing them anytime in the month of December is unusual. And, seeing multiple ones in one day is very unusual. A lot of this can probably be attributed to the La Niña pattern we’re in.”

The report notes that December is the second least likely month to see tornadoes in Middle Tennessee. The only month less likely to produce these kinds of storms is September.