Storms Wreak Havoc Across Midwest, Toppling Wind Turbines and Damaging Towns

v100 2.0 mw, south plains, texas, usa

As of May 8, 2024, the U.S. has experienced seven billion-dollar weather disasters, including five severe and two winter storms, causing 70 deaths. The annual average of such events has risen from 8.5 (1980–2023) to 2024 (2019–2023). (Credit: Vestas)

by | May 22, 2024

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Severe storms swept through much of Nebraska and Iowa on Tuesday, unleashing torrential rain, high winds, and large hail. This caused significant damage, including the destruction of several wind turbines. At least three 250-foot wind turbines were reported to have been toppled by tornadoes in southwest Iowa, with one turbine engulfed in flames and emitting thick black smoke.

In 2023, Vestas received a 56 MW order from RPM Access to power the Prescott wind project in Iowa, USA.

Tornado Activity Across the Midwest

The National Weather Service issued multiple tornado warnings for several towns across Iowa. The state had been on high alert, with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center predicting severe thunderstorms and potential strong tornadoes.

On Tuesday, Omaha, Nebraska, was hit by severe weather, resulting in widespread power outages and significant flooding. Over 5 inches of rain fell in less than two hours, flooding basements and submerging cars. Firefighters were deployed to rescue stranded individuals from vehicles.

In Yuma, Colorado, residents faced baseball-sized hail that caused extensive damage to vehicles and buildings. Streets were transformed into rivers of water and ice, with some areas experiencing knee-deep hail accumulations. Cleanup efforts involved heavy construction equipment and snow shovels to remove the ice.

Storm Volatility & Cost

In 2024, hot temperatures disrupted the typical “tornado season,” leading to over 450 tornadoes in the first four months. These included tornadoes from three winter storms: Ember, Finn, and Gerri. Record warmth in February and March particularly influenced tornado formation, with Wisconsin experiencing its first February tornadoes since before statehood and 23 tornadoes from northern Illinois to New York state.

The transition from El Niño to La Niña, which tends to enhance tornado activity, also contributed to this increase. These warm temperatures, specific weather patterns, and the El Niño-La Niña transition have resulted in more tornadoes this year. Meteorologists are closely monitoring these factors to improve tornado prediction and safety.

The recent string of storms highlights the increasing volatility of weather patterns in the Midwest and the need for enhanced preparedness and response strategies to mitigate the impact of such extreme weather events. As of mid-May, the United States had had a total of 640 tornadoes, slightly more than average for this time of year but far fewer than in 2011, the worst year on record.

During the first 137 days of 2024, the United States has experienced seven weather and climate disaster events, each causing over $1 billion in losses. These events included five severe and two winter storms, resulting in 70 deaths and substantial economic impacts on the affected areas. Historically, from 1980 to 2023, the annual average of such events is 8.5. However, in the most recent five years (2019–2023), the yearly average has increased to 20.4 events.

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