UPDATE: 9 confirmed tornadoes across the WOWT viewing area so far
National Weather Service still conducting storm surveys of the damage
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A powerful and extremely unusual December storm brought a wild combination of weather to the region on Wednesday. The storm system initially brought strong south winds that gusted as high as 60mph during the early afternoon hours, pumping in incredibly warm and humid air for the time of year. Temperatures climbed into the middle 70s, breaking record highs all over the area. Omaha officially hit 74 degrees, which not only smashed the daily record high, it also set a new record high for the entire month of December.
The unusually warm and humid air served as fuel for a powerful line of thunderstorms that kicked off southwest of Kearney, Nebraska. The line of storms raced east across the state at speeds of 70 to 80mph at times. The incredible speed of the storms along with tremendous amounts of energy in the atmosphere allows them to produce wind gusts that ranged from 60 to nearly 100mph across much of eastern Nebraska, tracking into most of Iowa as well. In total, more than 200 reports of severe weather came in from across our area.
The first reports of significant severe weather began to come in just after 2:30pm when Devenport, Nebraska, west of Beatrice, reported thunderstorm winds reaching 83mph. The line of storms quickly raced east, reaching the Columbus area by around 3pm, where we received a report of a tornado, along with numerous reports of wind damage. The squall line continues to quickly march east, reaching Lincoln by 3:30 where a 93mph wind gust was reported. The storms reached the Omaha metro right around 4pm, with numerous reports of wind gusts in the 60-80mph range along with many communities reporting wind damage.
The line of storms then quickly advanced into Iowa, spawning another potential tornado just northeast of Council Bluffs, leaving behind damage in Neola. Another reported tornado occurred between Atlantic and Audubon, Iowa, with numerous reports of damaging winds spanning the entire area.
So far, 9 reports of tornadoes have come in from the WOWT viewing area, with the entire system spawning at least 23 reports of tornadoes. The exact number of tornadoes produced by this evening will not be known until the National Weather Service is able to conduct storm surveys of the damage, which could take several days. The NWS Omaha office began surveying damage Thursday and have so far confirmed 5 tornadoes.
The NWS Omaha has found at least 7 confirmed tornadoes Thursday... they also confirmed a strong downburst in SE Council Bluffs. The 2 Pottawattamie County tornadoes have been rated EF-2.
They are have also partial completed surveying an 8th tornado near the Ithaca area. That will be continued today along with the the other survey site list here by the National Weather Service in Valley.
The National Weather Service in Des Moines has also completed its initial survey of the tornado that touched down near Atlantic, IA. The twister touched down a few miles south of Atlantic, and stayed on the ground for 26 miles before lifting north of Exira, IA. The tornado only lasted 18 minutes, meaning it was moving at roughly 86 miles per hour! Wind speeds reach between 115 and 120mph, making it an EF-2 tornado.
Lincoln took the dubious distinction of top wind gust in our area, reaching 93mph. However, winds clocked in at nearly 100mph across parts of Kansas as a result of this storm system. Notably, Smith Center, KS saw a 97mph wind gust that was reported nearly 2 hours after thunderstorms left the area.
The entire line of storms tracked from northern Kansas all the way into Minnesota and Wisconsin, covering nearly 700 miles in roughly 11 hours. That means the system was moving at roughly 60mph, while individual storms moved at speeds of 70 to 100mph, making it a very dangerous situation for anyone caught unaware that storms were on the way. For this reason, storm warnings were issued nearly an hour in advance to give everyone notice of the impending bad weather.
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