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Widespread power outages in Midwest after ‘off the charts’ storms


A satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of a storm system as it gathers strength over the Midwest on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021.

By The New York Times


At least half a million customers in the Midwest were without electricity Thursday morning after a powerful storm system swept through the central United States overnight. At least one person was killed.


Most of the power outages were in Michigan, with more than 240,000, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates data from utilities across the country. Another 148,000 were in Wisconsin, and nearly 50,000 customers were without power in Iowa.


The storm system, which was moving into Canada on Thursday, came less than a week after tornadoes whipped through Kentucky and five other states, killing at least 88 people.


The fatality Wednesday came when a tractor-trailer in Iowa was struck by “a strong gust of wind,” blowing over the truck and killing the driver, the Iowa State Patrol said.


There were otherwise few initial reports of injuries or major damage, although the main air traffic control tower at Kansas City International Airport was temporarily evacuated early Wednesday evening because of the storms.


The National Weather Service said there had been at least 55 wind gusts of at least 75 mph across the country Wednesday, the highest daily number since 2004.


The extreme weather came in several forms, including dust storms in Colorado and Kansas and a tornado in Lincoln, Nebraska. Images circulating on social media showed damage to hangars and small planes at the Santa Fe Regional Airport in New Mexico.


In Iowa, transportation officials shut down bridges and warned drivers to stay off roads. And in Omaha, Nebraska, meteorologists for the weather service briefly suspended their work as they sheltered from a storm.


The storm system also spawned wildfires and winds of up to 100 mph in Kansas, local authorities said. The weather service warned Wednesday afternoon that outages would exacerbate the risk of fires in Kansas and parts of Texas and Oklahoma.


As storms moved through South Dakota, the weather service office in Sioux Falls issued its first tornado warning on record for the month of December, a spokesman for the weather service said.


And in Iowa, where schools closed early and some areas saw wind gusts of up to 90 mph, high temperatures reached the lower 70s. On average, high temperatures in December throughout much of the state are in the 30s, according to the weather service.


“The storm system is unprecedented,” Andrew Ansorge, a meteorologist with the weather service in Des Moines, Iowa, said Wednesday. “We don’t have anything to compare it to.”


“Off the charts is the best way to say it,” he added.

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