Severe storms batter the Midwest, including reported tornadoes that shredded a FedEx facility

Debris is seen from a damaged FedEx facility after a tornado in Portage, Mich., Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Brad Devereaux/Kalamazoo Gazette via AP)

By Associated Press

May 8, 2024

DETROIT—Severe storms barreled through the Midwest early Wednesday, a day after two reported tornadoes struck one Michigan city and destroyed homes and commercial buildings, including a FedEx facility.

Tornadoes were first reported after dark Tuesday in parts of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, while portions of Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri were also under a tornado watch, according to the National Weather Service. The storms came a day after a deadly twister ripped through an Oklahoma town.

As the storms raged on in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh warned that a tornado in northeastern Ohio could cross into Pennsylvania. Parts of West Virginia were also under a tornado warning.

Hancock County Schools in West Virginia closed schools Wednesday because of “extensive overnight weather issues” in the county. News outlets reported damaged buildings and power outages.

Hours earlier in southwestern Michigan, two reported tornadoes blitzed the city of Portage near Kalamazoo on Tuesday night, destroying homes and commercial buildings, including a FedEx facility that was ripped apart.

No serious injuries were immediately reported, but city officials said in a news release that the twisters knocked out power to more than 20,000 people. Most of them would be without power until late Wednesday, city officials said.

At one point, about 50 people were trapped inside the FedEx facility because of downed power lines. But company spokesperson Shannon Davis said late Tuesday that “all team members are safe and accounted for.”

More than 30,000 customers were without power in Michigan early Wednesday, and an additional 10,000 in Ohio, according to PowerOutage.us.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for four counties.

“My heart goes out to all those impacted by tonight’s severe weather in southwest Michigan,” Whitmer said in a message on social media. “State and local emergency teams are on the ground and working together to assist Michiganders.”

National Weather Service crews were working Wednesday to survey storm damage in several counties in Michigan’s southwest Lower Peninsula to determine whether tornadoes touched down in those areas, including the two reported Tuesday night in the city of Portage, said meteorologist Mike Sutton with the weather service’s Grand Rapids office.

He said the Grand Rapids office had received a total of 11 reports of tornadoes from storm spotters, emergency managers and the public from late Tuesday afternoon into Tuesday night, but as of 8 a.m. Wednesday, it had not confirmed any tornado touchdowns.

Sutton said it could be a couple days before the storm surveys are completed and he stressed that some of the tornado reports could be duplicate reports passed along by people who saw the same storm.

“It’s quite possible those are multiple reports from the same tornado. The actual number of tornadoes may be lower depending on what they find when they’re out surveying,” he said.

Tuesday’s storms came a day after parts of the central United States were battered by heavy rain, strong winds, hail and twisters. Both the Plains and Midwest have been hammered by tornadoes this spring.

Across the U.S., the entire week is looking stormy. The Midwest and the South are expected to get the brunt of the bad weather through the rest of the week, including in Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Cincinnati — cities where more than 21 million people live. It should be clear over the weekend.

On Monday night, a deadly twister in Oklahoma tore through the 1,000-person town of Barnsdall. At least one person was killed and another was missing. Dozens of homes were destroyed.

Aerial videos showed homes reduced to piles of rubble and others with roofs torn off. The twister tossed vehicles, downed power lines and stripped limbs and bark from trees across the town. A 160-acre (65-hectare) wax manufacturing facility in the community also sustained heavy damage.

It was the second tornado to hit Barnsdall in five weeks — a twister on April 1 with maximum wind speeds of 90 to 100 mph (145 to 161 kph) damaged homes and blew down trees and power poles.

At the Hampton Inn in nearby Bartlesville, several splintered two-by-fours were driven into the building. Chunks of insulation, twisted metal and other debris were scattered over the lawn, and vehicles in the parking lot were heavily damaged, with blown-out windows.

Hotel guest Matthew Macedo said he was ushered into a laundry room to wait out the storm.

“When the impact occurred, it was incredibly sudden,” he said.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who toured the twister’s damage Tuesday, said it was rated by weather researchers as a violent tornado with winds reaching up to 200 mph (322 kph). Stitt said he and legislative leaders have agreed to set aside $45 million in this year’s budget to help storm-damaged communities.

Areas in Oklahoma, including Sulphur and Holdenville, are still recovering from a tornado that killed four and left thousands without power late last month.

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