A blizzard, thunderstorms and tornadoes up to two miles wide were part of a large storm system hitting several Midwestern states Friday, with forecasters expecting a wet, windy weekend.
The thunderstorms and tornadoes centered over western Iowa developed from two opposing forces: a strong, warm jet stream coming off the Plains and a cold front from the West, which spawned a blizzard that had already dumped almost 3 feet of snow in several parts of Wyoming and South Dakota.
“It’s a cyclone, essentially,” said
The western half of Iowa and some counties in southeastern South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska remained under a tornado watch until midnight. Tornadoes were already reported in Nebraska on Thursday.
A mile-wide tornado was reported in Moville, Iowa, according to the National Weather Service. Thirty miles east in Jefferson, S.D., early reports said a tornado measuring almost one mile across caused extensive damage. Federal officials reported more damage in Quimby, Iowa. Details were not available.
A tornado that witnesses said measured 2 miles across touched down in Wayne, Neb., and destroyed several homes, reported the Associated Press.
Several homes lost power in western Iowa, and farms reported damage to corn fields and irrigation systems, according to the Sioux City Journal.
Weather service forecasters expect the tornado conditions to continue moving northeast from Sioux City.
Several northern Plains states received a wet, heavy snowfall measuring from a few inches to a few feet, according to the National Weather Service.
The snowfall and heavy winds downed trees and power lines in South Dakota, and there were numerous road closures between the Mount Rushmore State and Wyoming.
The federal government shutdown is complicating the response to the storm.
Although National Weather Service meteorologists were exempt from the furlough, Bardin said some staffers that had been put on leave on account of the shutdown were called back to work Friday.
"When we realized the weather system was turning volatile, we did request that some furlough employees come back," Bardin said.
Most of the employees called back are members of the public affairs staff, Bardin said.