It’s been an unusually harrowing month for millions of Americans living in the path of a spate of tornadoes that have torn through the heart of the country. An incredible 225 tornadoes have been confirmed since 17 May, with eyewitness reports of around 500 tornadoes over the course of the month.
May is the height of tornado season but the current spate of storms has been exacerbated by cold, wet weather in California that has spawned tornadoes once weather systems pass east over the Rockies.
A total of 34 million people from Texas to New Jersey have been placed under severe weather warnings this week. On Thursday, the National Weather Service warned of “severe thunderstorms capable of damaging wind gusts, hail and a tornado or two are possible from the Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic States”.
Key states that have borne the brunt of the weather system have been:
A swarm of tornadoes that barreled through Ohio and Indiana killed one person and injured at least 90. The storms tore off roofs, downed power lines and toppled trees.
Some of the worst damage was in Dayton, Ohio, with several apartment buildings severely damaged. In Celina, Ohio, an 81-year-old man was killed when a parked car was blown into his house. “There’s areas that truly look like a war zone,” said Jeffrey Hazel, mayor of Celina. Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, has declared a state of emergency.
A dozen people were taken to hospital after a tornado smashed into the outskirts of Lawrence, Kansas, which is home to the University of Kansas. The Kansas City international airport was shut down on Tuesday because of the storms.
Around 15,000 people were left without power in Douglas and Johnson counties, according to the local utility.
The town of El Reno was upended by a tornado moving at more than 130mph over the weekend, with a mobile home park leveled and a hotel destroyed. An online fundraising effort has been launched for the town, which is near Oklahoma City.
Across the state, at least six people have been killed due to tornadoes and accompanying flooding, with all 77 counties in a state of emergency.
“Many Oklahoma communities have been hit hard, and we will be doing everything possible to help them today in their time of need and in the weeks to come,” said Kevin Stitt, governor of Oklahoma.
Three counties in New Jersey were, unusually, put under tornado watch. The threat ultimately passed, although much of the state was battered by heavy rains and hail, causing flooding.