Tornadoes rip through rural Iowa, smashing homes to pieces as millions of people from Nebraska to Kansas hunker down while brutal storm barrels through the country

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Written By Maya Cantina

Millions of people are hunkering down across the Midwest as a vicious storm reaches its peak and barrels eastward after tornadoes touched down in four states.

Homes were smashed to pieces in Missouri after a tornado swept through Clay County and more twisters and 15 more were reported in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.

South Dakota, Illinois and Wisconsin are also under alert with lethal golf ball-sized hailstones as tornado season produced its strongest showing of the year so far.

‘There is a risk of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that continues as we go through Tuesday night into Wednesday morning,’ said Orelon Sidney of the Weather Channel.

‘I want you to be especially vigilant across parts of Iowa where there is a risk of EF2 tornadoes where you can see two-inch hail or larger. This is an all-hazards situation.’

Ethan Steenbach saw his outhouses scattered in the branches after a tornado touched down in Overbrook, Kansas, on Tuesday morning

And little was left of this home nearby after the storm tore a path outside the town

And little was left of this home nearby after the storm tore a path outside the town 

Two people were injured when a 20-minute long tornado overturned their RV in Osage County, Kansas.

Homes and farm buildings were scattered over dozens of acres after a twister hit the ground outside New London in Iowa and more homes were battered in nearby Minburn.

Thousands braced themselves as a tornado surged near Rockwell, and drivers slammed on their brakes in Salem as roofs were torn from industrial buildings and tumbled across the road while leaving a garage destroyed nearby.

One was spotted drifting ominously across a field in Pocahontas County ten minutes after appearing near Palmer.

Another touched down in Monroe, Nebraska, and more were reported from Colfax and Platte in the Cornhusker state.

The FAA was left scrambling to reroute flights to avoid the worst of the winds, warning their plans ‘may cause issues getting in and out of the New York and DC region later on’ in the day.

‘Thunderstorms throughout Salt Lake City in Denver may also required routes in and out of Denver Airport,’ National Traffic Management Officer Wayne Hubbard said from the FAA’s Command Center.

‘Beyond that, we’ll continue to work on our constraints. You can check our website at faa.gov for information as it comes.’

The National Weather Service warned that the storm could impact as far south as the Ozarks and Mid-South before the center of the storm heads for the Great Lakes tomorrow.

The epicenter of the storm was covering thousands of square miles on Tuesday evening

The epicenter of the storm was covering thousands of square miles on Tuesday evening

A tornado was seen forming over Nebraska early in the afternoon as the system moved east. The towering mass of wind was photographed as it moved north

A tornado was seen forming over Nebraska early in the afternoon as the system moved east. The towering mass of wind was photographed as it moved north

FAA National Traffic Management Officer Wayne Hubbard revealed the agency has rerouted flights to address parts of the system set to form over Central and South Virginia Tuesday afternoon

FAA National Traffic Management Officer Wayne Hubbard revealed the agency has rerouted flights to address parts of the system set to form over Central and South Virginia Tuesday afternoon

Southern Iowa, Northern Missouri and Central Illinois will all face the largest threat of 'significant hail and tornadoes,' the NWS said - while parts of Oklahoma , Missouri and Virginia also face a slight risk. Pictured, the jet stream fueling the supercell

Southern Iowa, Northern Missouri and Central Illinois will all face the largest threat of ‘significant hail and tornadoes,’ the NWS said – while parts of Oklahoma , Missouri and Virginia also face a slight risk. Pictured, the jet stream fueling the supercell

Sixteen tornadoes across four states had been reported to the NOAA by late afternoon

Sixteen tornadoes across four states had been reported to the NOAA by late afternoon

‘There is a risk for supercells especially across northern Missouri into southern/eastern Iowa and northwest Illinois,’ they said in an update.

‘Steep mid-level lapse rates will aid in hail production, with a few golf ball or two plus inch diameter stones possible with the more robust cores.

‘The main tornado potential is still expected to be focused along/near the warm front in southern/eastern Iowa.’

More than 70 million Americans remain under severe weather alert as the forefront of the sprawling storm system struck Washington, DC, and Virginia late Monday.

Frightening footage showed lighting that also enveloped the area, with bolts seen illuminating the night sky over Richmond as rain fell.

Thousands of Dominion Energy customers in the Richmond region were left without power Monday night as a result – an outage estimated to affect around 13,000 customers.

More than 12,000 customers were without power in Missouri as the sun set on Tuesday, with another 7,000 out in Iowa.

‘As we turn into Wednesday the focus is going to turn onto the Great Lakes,’ said Sidney.

‘And then by Thursday we’re back into the southern plains, Mid-Mississippi Valley as the cold front pushes eastward.’

NEBRASKA, KANSAS, AND OKLAHOMA 

Law enforcement officers in Kansas reported that a tornado touched down southeast of Eureka around 4:45 am, putting Greenwood county under a tornado warning until 5 am.

No one was reported injured, but a recreational vehicle was reported destroyed in Osage County.

At least four to five homes southwest of Overbook were also damaged, as photos showed downed trees and branches blocking roads.

At 6.45am, an EF1 tornado touched down just southwest of Overbrook, on the ground for 10 miles hitting Richland. It had winds of 100 mph, damaged several structures, and injured at least two people.

Damage south of Eureka from a likely tornado is seen here on Tuesday morning. Law enforcement officers in Kansas reported that a tornado touched down southeast of the town around 4:45 am

Damage south of Eureka from a likely tornado is seen here on Tuesday morning. Law enforcement officers in Kansas reported that a tornado touched down southeast of the town around 4:45 am

Two hours later, an EF1 tornado touched down just southwest of Overbrook, on the ground for 10 miles hitting Richland

Two hours later, an EF1 tornado touched down just southwest of Overbrook, on the ground for 10 miles hitting Richland

It had winds of 100 mph, damaged several structures, and injured at least two people. One of the damaged homes is seen here

It had winds of 100 mph, damaged several structures, and injured at least two people. One of the damaged homes is seen here

No other information was immediately available, but photos of some of the damage were shared by the NWS.

Another tornado was seen hours earlier in Southern Nebraska, as areas further north were plagued by power outages and more storm damage.

At 3am, power outages were reported in the city of Juniata, but power has since been restored.

Tree limbs were also blown down from more than 60mph winds in nearby Kearny county, where a train derailed a few miles east, near the intersection of Highway 30 and Keystone Road just before 4am, the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

Thunderstorm winds of 55-to-65 miles-per-hour were also seen in southern Nebraska, with one gust clocking in at 78-miles-per-hour.

Quarter to half-dollar sized hail partly covered the ground in Edison, where windows were broken out because of the falling ice.

Far north-central Nebraska, on the other hand, has had hail up to golf-ball size.

Earlier on in the day, storm chasers were seen following the system in the Texas Big Country, which aside from some rainfall and lightning, was mostly spared by the weather event.

MISSOURI, IOWA, AND NEBRASKA

Just after 11am, a possible tornado rotation was detected east of Smithville, Missouri, moving northeast at 50 mph, meteorologists a few miles away in Kansas City said.

It is not yet known if a twister actually occurred, and no injuries were reported as of 11:30amET.

Shortly after, people in the path of the storms were urged to take cover.

‘Move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building,’ the National Weather Service said while issuing a tornado warning for parts of Clinton, Clay and Platte counties.

‘Avoid windows. If you are outdoors, in a mobile home, or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.’

Another twister was spotted forming near Humphrey, Nebraska around 1pm, spurring another tornado warning for Platte County

Another twister was spotted forming near Humphrey, Nebraska around 1pm, spurring another tornado warning for Platte County

The thunderstorms in the state also led to funnel clouds forming and briefly touching the ground in Platte County, where one brave onlooker was able to snap a picture

The thunderstorms in the state also led to funnel clouds forming and briefly touching the ground in Platte County, where one brave onlooker was able to snap a picture

The system is seen here late Tuesday morning from the Town of Kansas Bridge in Missouri, as it continues to barrel east

The system is seen here late Tuesday morning from the Town of Kansas Bridge in Missouri, as it continues to barrel east

At least four to five homes in Nebraska were damaged by the storms seen overnight, with photos from Kearney County showing downed trees and branches blocking roads

At least four to five homes in Nebraska were damaged by the storms seen overnight, with photos from Kearney County showing downed trees and branches blocking roads

Storms were seen moving over De Moines, Iowa, at 11am. A second, more severe round of storms will develop this afternoon officials said. Those storms will carry a tornado threat

Storms were seen moving over De Moines, Iowa, at 11am. A second, more severe round of storms will develop this afternoon officials said. Those storms will carry a tornado threat

Iowa is expected to bear the brunt of torrential thunderstorms on Tuesday night

Iowa is expected to bear the brunt of torrential thunderstorms on Tuesday night

Scans taken by the service just before noon showed that the weather event has since dissipated.

Storms were seen moving over De Moines, Iowa, at 11am. A second, more severe round of storms will develop this afternoon officials said. Those storms will carry a tornado threat.

David King, a meteorologist with the NWS in Chicago, offered details about the system’s predicted path.

‘Once we get into the afternoon hours Tuesday, there is the potential for scattered thunderstorms across northern Illinois which could become severe,’ he said Tuesday morning.

‘And it looks like we have another round Wednesday morning that could produce hail and strong wind, as well,’ added Alex Gibbs, lead meteorologist with the NWS Quad Cities.

Both said Iowa and the Quad Cities will bear the brunt of the supercell by this point, with King categorizing the risk level as severe.

That said, Southern Iowa, Northern Missouri and Central Illinois will all face the largest threat of ‘significant hail and tornado[es],’ the NWS warned – while parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Virginia will only face a slight risk.

Frightening footage showed lighting that enveloped the DC area Monday night, with bolts seen illuminating the night sky over Richmond as rain fell. The region was struck by a portion of the system late Monday as most of the rest remained around the Midwest

Frightening footage showed lighting that enveloped the DC area Monday night, with bolts seen illuminating the night sky over Richmond as rain fell. The region was struck by a portion of the system late Monday as most of the rest remained around the Midwest

Thousands of Dominion Energy customers in the Richmond region were left without power Monday night as a result - an outage estimated to affect around 13,000 customers

Thousands of Dominion Energy customers in the Richmond region were left without power Monday night as a result – an outage estimated to affect around 13,000 customers

Dopplers also detected a brief tornado near Minburn, Iowa, around 12pm, though the twister, as of 12:30pm, has since moved north. No injuries were immediately reported.

Another was spotted forming near Humphrey, Nebraska, around 1pm, spurring a tornado warning in Platte County.

The twister was seen moving north just after 1:30pm at 15mph, 15 miles north of Columbus, and was filmed two hours later still raging near the village of Howells and a few minutes later Rockwell City.

As of writing, no injuries were immediately reported, but rain was falling at heavy rate in cities in the central and eastern parts of the state, including cities like Cedar Rapids.

Moreover, more storms were forecast to sprout up across Iowa to Arkansas Tuesday afternoon, Missouri included.

ILLINOIS AND VIRGINIA

Severe scattered thunderstorms are also expected to bring strong winds, hail, flash flooding and even possible tornadoes to Illinois and Virginia later in the day, meteorologists said, as May is generally considered the midpoint of tornado season.

Harold Brooks, a tornado scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, on Tuesday explained the relatively new phenomenon of tornadoes forming so far east, while explaining how late April to the middle of May is actually when the strongest tornadoes occur – and when the most fatalities appear.

April had already proved a damaging month for much of the eastern United States

April had already proved a damaging month for much of the eastern United States

The tornado was seen moving north just after 1:30pm at 15mph, 15 miles north of Columbus. No injuries were immediately reported

The tornado was seen moving north just after 1:30pm at 15mph, 15 miles north of Columbus. No injuries were immediately reported

‘There’s a lot of uncertainty in those estimates,’ he, however, first disclaimed, citing the fact that each tornado season varies year to year.

That said, the presence of tornadoes along the Mississippi River and farther east than typical tornado territory over the decades has kept scientists like him guessing – as some theorize that one possible factor could be that the western Great Plains getting drier due to climate change.

Wisconsin is also under a loose tornado threat, as the storm moves northeast.

Joe Strus, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, on Tuesday concluded climate change is to blame for precipitation having ‘shifted east a little bit.’

OHIO, KENTUCKY, AND INDIANA

Currently moving through the Great Plains, the system will eventually reach the Mississippi Valley, and Great Lakes and Ohio Valley areas on Wednesday, bringing with it ‘severe weather and isolated flash flooding’ before tracking further east.

The highest tornado threat will be in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, including Detroit, Indianapolis and Cleveland.

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