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Weather tracker: severe storms and tornadoes hit parts of US

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Severe thunderstorms affected parts of the US last week, spawning at least 129 tornadoes across midwestern and southern states between 25 and 28 April. The majority occurred on 26 April, with most touching down in Nebraska and Iowa.

Two that formed were particularly large and long-lived, lasting about an hour and reaching a mile in diameter, with surface wind speeds of about 160mph at their strongest. The first travelled over 31 miles across eastern Nebraska, causing severe damage in the Omaha suburb of Elkhorn. The second, which also developed secondary vortices, travelled almost 41 miles across western Iowa, and killed one person in Minden.

The following day there were severe storms across Texas and Oklahoma, giving rise to the most violent tornado of the outbreak during the late evening. The tornado lasted about 24 minutes and travelled 27 miles across southern Oklahoma, with surface winds of up to 170mph. It caused widespread destruction in Marietta, including major damage to the hospital, with one death reported elsewhere in the town.

This was the only tornado of the outbreak to be rated as EF-4, the second most severe category on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which rates tornadoes based on the level of damage caused. This the first EF-4 of 2024, making it one of the worst tornadoes of recent years; only 16 have been reported in the US since 2020.

There were severe thunderstorms in France on Wednesday, with Météo-France placing 19 departments in central and northern France on an orange thunderstorm alert. By late afternoon, much of central France had had heavy rain, gusty winds and hail, with hailstones of up to 4cm observed on the Côte d’Or. Storms strengthened as they headed northwards towards Paris, producing a supercell, which led to hailstones of up to 5cm in Yonne, causing destruction in vineyards around Chablis.

As the storms reached Paris overnight, the north-east of the city was the worst affected, with more than 40 calls made to the fire service. Airports were badly affected, with more than 40 flights diverted. At Charles de Gaulle airport, 21.9mm of rain fell in just 12 minutes.

Later in the night, as storms continued northwards, heavy rain caused a mudslide in Courmelles in Aisne, killing one woman and injuring her husband. Storms then crossed the Channel and moved into south-east England, where frequent lightning was seen.

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