Windstorm Hit Central U.S. With Force of a Category 2 Hurricane
(Bloomberg) -- The winds that raked the Great Plains and Midwest hit with the force of a hurricane as the perfect confluence of events brought a second wave of severe weather to the central U.S. within a week.
The system, which formed over the Pacific Ocean and dropped 5 feet (1.5 meters) of snow in California earlier this week, gained strength as it crossed the Rocky Mountains, then roared with stunning speed across the prairie. In Nebraska, winds reached 97 miles per hour, the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the National Weather Service.
Those winds don’t even include the intense gusts from the upward of 20 tornadoes reported across the region. The system was so ferocious that some forecasters suspect it may have been a derecho, a rare wave of gusty thunderstorms that sweep landscapes with devastating force and normally happen in summer.
“It was a long path of hurricane-force winds over a long distance,” said Paul Walker, a meteorologist with commercial forecaster AccuWeather Inc. “We’ll have to see if it goes down as a derecho.”
The storm struck five days after a devastating outbreak of tornadoes last week killed at least 75 people in Kentucky and neighboring states, including collapsing an Amazon warehouse in Illinois. Meteorologists say a combination of factors, including a La Nina in the Pacific Ocean, a large reservoir of moist air and high temperatures, are contributing factors to the outbreaks.
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