6 FIRST ALERT UPDATE - 24 tornadoes confirmed in WOWT viewing area, 92 across the region

A severe weather outbreak on December 15, 2021 produced dozens of tornadoes across the region
Published: Dec. 19, 2021 at 11:03 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2021 at 5:15 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A powerful and extremely unusual December storm brought a wild combination of weather to the region on Wednesday, December 15th. The storm system initially brought strong south winds that gusted as high as 60mph during the early afternoon hours, pumping in warm and humid air that smashed record highs across the region, including a new record high for the month of December in Omaha.

What followed was an incredibly powerful line of thunderstorms that raced through the area at speeds of 60 to 80mph. Those storms produced wind gusts of 60 to nearly 100mph across wide swaths of the area, as well as dozens of tornadoes. In total, more than 200 reports of severe weather came in from across our area that afternoon and evening.

Total Storm Reports Updated
Total Storm Reports Updated(WOWT)


Once the severe weather cleared, meteorologists from the National Weather Service (NWS) began to survey the storm damage. This, along with deeper radar analysis, allows the team to verify tornadoes, their paths, and their eventual ratings on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. The process can take several days depending on the amount of storm damage. As of Wednesday evening, 24 tornadoes had been confirmed just within the WOWT viewing area, which is served by the NWS offices in Valley and Des Moines. Out of these 20 tornadoes, one was an EF-0, 14 were EF-1s, and nine were EF-2s.

Confirmed Tornadoes in the 6 News Area
Confirmed Tornadoes in the 6 News Area(WOWT)

Most of these tornadoes were only on the ground for a matter of minutes and a couple of miles. However, the longest path length occurred with the tornado that traveled through Cass and Audubon Counties in Iowa (the “Atlantic” tornado). This storm was on the ground for 26.1 miles and 18 minutes. The tornado damaged farm buildings, including taking the roof off barns and silos west of Atlantic, as well as bending and damaging transmission lines north of Atlantic. The tornado continued on the ground all the way into the Exira area before lifting, with peak winds of near 120mph.

Atlantic Tornado
Atlantic Tornado(WOWT)

Two tornadoes struck portions of Pottawattamie county, hitting areas just northeast of Council Bluffs. The first tornado touched down just to the west of I-80, about 4 miles southwest of McClelland. The tornado tracked along L34 through Sherwood County Estates for about 2.3 miles with top winds of 120mph before dissipating. Several homes were damaged, including one house with the majority of the roof removed. A second tornado touched down east of Underwood, tracking north across I-80 and into the Neola area. The tornado was on the ground for 6.7 miles with top winds around 125mph. The tornado damaged several homes and businesses along it’s path, with significant damage to buildings in Neola.

Tornadoes Near Underwood and Neola
Tornadoes Near Underwood and Neola(WOWT)

A third tornado track in Pottawattomie County was confirmed on Tuesday, the tornado touching down just southwest of Macedonia. The tornado moved northeast at speeds over 60mph, crossing Highway 92 before dissipating east of Oakland. Considerable damage was noted to trees, power lines, and homes in the area. The tornado was on the ground for 9.5 miles, but only lasted 8 minutes. It was rated an EF-1 with peak winds around 100mph.

Macedonia Tornado
Macedonia Tornado(WOWT)

On the Nebraska side, a survey from Saturday confirmed an EF-2 tornado tracked through Saline, Seward, and Lancaster Counties Wednesday afternoon. This storm was also on the ground for 18 minutes and traveled almost 24 miles. The tornado touched down in northeast Saline county where it damaged farm equipment, then quickly raced northeast into Seward county moving toward Pleasant Dale. As it crossed into Lancaster County, the tornado destroyed a 100-year-old barn, tearing the barn off of the foundation. The tornado continued through the southeast side of Pawnee Lake, damaging power lines in the area, and eventually crossing Highway 34 before dissipating.

Seward - Lancaster County Tornadoes
Seward - Lancaster County Tornadoes(WOWT)

A NWS survey on Sunday confirmed a 16.6 mile long tornado with winds of 110mph that tracked through Saunders county from near Ceresco into the Yutan area. The tornado damaged farm buildings east of Ceresco and moved quickly to the northeast toward Highway 63. The storm damaged several barns, including one that was completely destroyed near Road 11 and Road F. Numbers power poles and transmission lines were damaged or destroyed, including numerous poles along Highway 92 which caused the highway to be closed for several days. The tornado ended one mile northeast of Yutan where a farm building was blown a significant distance.

Tornadoes in Saunders County
Tornadoes in Saunders County(WOWT)

Two additional tornadoes were confirmed in parts of Mills County. A 10-mile path of damage from an EF-1 tornado with peak winds of 110mph was identified in southwestern Mills County, just west of Tabor. The tornado tracked into portions of central Mills County, moving toward Hillsdale where several buildings were damaged and a path of tree damage was noted. The twister also damaged several homes and snapped numerous power poles, leading to the closure of Highway 34 for several days. The tornado ended just north of Highway 34 in central Mills County. A second, short-lived tornado was identified near Henderson. This EF-1 tornado was on the ground for a little over a half-mile with peak winds of 110mph that damaged several farm buildings and vehicles, then snapped several power poles and trees.

Mills County Tornadoes
Mills County Tornadoes(WOWT)

Another EF-1 tornado track was identified just to the southwest of Bancroft in northeastern Nebraska. The tornado cross Highway 51 just west of Bancroft and continued into southern Thurston County, passing west of Rosalie before dissipating. Numerous buildings were damaged along the path of the tornado, including a barn that collapsed in the wind. Significant tree damage and power pole damage was also noted along the 9-mile path.

Bancroft Tornado
Bancroft Tornado(WOWT)


This line of storms did not stop after it exited our viewing area Wednesday evening. Severe storms continued to produce damaging winds and tornadoes through Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. So far, 27 tornadoes have been identified in Nebraska, and 43 in Iowa. Prior to Wednesday, Nebraska had only recorded 5 tornadoes for the month of December. All in all, at least 91 tornadoes have been confirmed across the region from Wednesday’s severe weather outbreak, including the first-ever tornadoes recorded in the state of Minnesota for the month of December.

92 Tornadoes Reported From December 15th Outbreak
92 Tornadoes Reported From December 15th Outbreak(WOWT)

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