Nine dead as tornadoes rip from Branson, Missouri, up to Illinois
A storm system produced at least 16 twisters from Kansas to Branson, Missouri, to Illinois overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday, part of an active 2012 tornado season. Kentucky remains under a tornado watch.
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However, there is concern among meteorologists that this season could be marked with unusual tornado strikes and intensity. "As we head toward the spring season our expectations are that 2012 will favor above-normal tornado numbers once again, primarily due to La Niña," meteorologist Jeff Johnson said in a blog post. He is chief science officer at Telvent, which provides weather forecasting to companies and cities.Skip to next paragraph
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The system that struck the Midwest late Tuesday and early Wednesday began as a low-pressure front cascading down from the Rockies, clashing with lingering warm, moist air to the east. The system rumbled across the country's midsection, spawning intense thunderstorms and powerful twisters.
In Branson, home to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede and a host of other country-music-related tourist destinations, the twister seemed to descend with a purpose, locals say.
“The theater next to me kind of exploded. It went everywhere. The hotels on the two sides of me lost their roofs. Power lines are down. Windows are blown out,” John Moore, a diner owner, told the Associated Press. “There’s major, major destruction. There has to be millions of dollars of damage all down the strip.”
Storms also ripped across northern Arkansas, with golf-ball-size hail crashing into northeastern parts of the state. But scenes from Harrisburg in southern Illinois were perhaps the most stunning, as entire neighborhoods lay smashed by tornadoes in scenes uncomfortably reminiscent of last year's tornado outbreaks in Joplin, Mo., and the Alabama cities of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.
Tornado watches remained in effect in central Kentucky, where officials in Hardin County, just southwest of Louisville, are investigating reports of a possible tornado. Homes and farm buildings sustained heavy damage in the area, and some livestock were reported killed.
IN PICTURES: Extreme weather 2012