At least 50 tornadoes across eight states destroyed homes and businesses and likely killed more than 100 people Friday night. Tornadoes were reported in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee, as well as Kentucky where the devastation was most severe. “I’ve got towns that are gone — that are just, I mean, gone,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told CNN. “I mean you go door-to-door to check on people … There are no doors.”
About 75% of Dawson Springs was wiped out, its mayor said. Gov. Beshear told NBC the high death toll risked overwhelming available space in morgues. There is increasing evidence linking climate change to the severe weather that gives rise to tornadoes and emerging research suggests there may be a link between warming and large tornado outbreaks, particularly in the southeast U.S. in the winter months. “One word: remarkable; unbelievable would be another,” Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini, told the AP. “It was really a late spring type of setup in the middle of December.”
‘Unbelievable’ and ‘shocking’
“Last night was one of the most shocking weather events in my 40 years as a meteorologist — a violent tornado (in December!) drawing comparisons to the deadliest and longest-tracking tornado in U.S. history,” tweeted Jeff Masters, a meteorologist and expert on extreme weather.
Additionally, Tornado Alley is shifting east, away from Kansas and Oklahoma toward the states hit Friday night. “This is going to be our new normal,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN. “The effects we are seeing of climate change are the crisis of our generation.” President Biden approved an emergency disaster declaration for Kentucky on Saturday. (Destruction: CNN, Washington Post $, Lexington Herald-Leader, New York Times $, NBC, Black Wall Street Times, Reuters, Axios, Reuters, FT $, Gizmodo, Axios, Politico; Climate links: AP, explainer, Washington Post $, NBC, Yale Climate Connections; Criswell: CNN; Photos: Washington Post $, Axios; TV: NBC, NBC, ABC, ABC, NBC, CBS, NBC, CBS, NBC, ABC; Climate Signals background: Tornado risk increase)