Deadly Storms Leave Trail of Destruction Throughout South, Midwest
UNITED STATES—January 15, 2020—Two days of severe weather stretching from Texas to Iowa to Ohio last week killed 12 people and left behind a long trail of structural damages, power outages, and flooding, according to CBS News and other sources. The severe weather outbreak began Friday morning as a string of thunderstorms and tornadoes tore across the South. Behind the low-pressure system, winter weather struck many areas Saturday into Sunday as downpours turned to freezing rain and snow.
The storm system is known to be responsible for 12 deaths so far. Accuweather reports 19 reported tornados from the outbreak of storms, including one that killed three people in Pickens County, Alabama, according to USA Today. Tornados and severe winds were also responsible for three deaths in Louisiana where straight-line winds tore the roof off Benton Middle School in Bossier Parish. Four were killed in Texas, including two first responders killed in a traffic accident in Lubbock due to icy conditions, according to USA Today. Heavy downpours led to flash flooding in many areas, and one Oklahoma man drowned in floodwaters that swept him away from his stalled truck. To the north, snow and freezing rain caused more dangerous driving conditions. In Iowa, a passenger in a semitrailer was killed after the truck flipped on an icy road, according to CBS News.
In addition to the loss of life, the storms left behind widespread destruction, including flooded roads, downed trees and power lines, and damaged homes, schools, and other structures. Accuweather reports that at one point, power outages totaled more than 318,000 customers stretching from Texas to Kentucky. A tornado hit North-Central High School in South Carolina on Saturday and two tornadoes caused damages in Miami County, Ohio. At least two of the reported deaths in the South were caused by trees striking homes.
By Saturday, parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana were under flash flood warnings, with highways closed due to flooding in Oklahoma and Arkansas, according to the Associated Press. As seemingly all varieties of severe weather erupted at once, residents in many areas found themselves dealing with both thunderstorms and winter storms in under 48 hours. North Texas was struck by severe thunderstorms Friday night and woke up Saturday morning to snow accumulations up to three inches, according to the Washington Post. The snowfall stretched north with parts of Wisconsin and Michigan receiving 6 to 12 inches. Chicago found itself under the threat of both lakeshore flooding and ice and snow on Saturday, prompting the cancellation of more than 1,200 flights as winter storm warnings were issued for northwestern Illinois, according to the Associated Press.
Adding to the unusual weather patterns, ahead of the storms most of the eastern half of the U.S. experienced much warmer temperatures than normal at what is typically the coldest part of the year. According to the Washington Post, at least 50 locations along the East Coast set record highs on Saturday, including New York City at 67 degrees Fahrenheit and Boston at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Accuweather, the unseasonable warmth also led to a surge of Gulf moisture that brought continued showers and thunderstorms throughout the week to many of the hard-hit areas in the South as they began the recovery process from the weekend storms.