© 2024 KUAF
NPR Affiliate since 1985
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Deadly severe weather roars through several states, spawning potential tornadoes

A steel billboard and its support were blown over in Dunbar, W.Va., Tuesday, April 2, 2024, after severe storms blew through the area.
Chris Dorst
/
AP
A steel billboard and its support were blown over in Dunbar, W.Va., Tuesday, April 2, 2024, after severe storms blew through the area.

Thousands of homes and businesses were without power Tuesday as severe weather roared through several states, causing at least one death and spawning possible tornadoes.

Parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia and Georgia were under tornado watches into Tuesday night, while Wisconsin was experiencing a spring snowstorm.

Storms in Northeastern Oklahoma unleashed three suspected tornadoes and dumped heavy rain that was blamed for the death of a 46-year-old homeless woman in Tulsa who was sheltering inside a drainage pipe.

The woman's boyfriend told authorities the two had gone to sleep at the entrance of the drainage pipe and were awakened by floodwaters, Tulsa Fire Department spokesperson Andy Little said. Up to 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) of rain fell in Tulsa in about an hour, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Darby said.

"It wasn't a whole lot. But when it came down, it was pretty rapid," Darby said.

In West Virginia, about 140,000 customers were without electricity Tuesday afternoon, or about 14% of all customers tracked in the state by poweroutage.us. A storm blew off part of a vacant building's roof in Charleston, littering the street with bricks and closing the roadway to traffic. Trees were uprooted and lay in roads, lawns and in some cases, on top of cars.

Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for several counties and urged people to "exercise extreme caution."

In Ohio, firefighters rescued two people who were trapped under a bridge Tuesday morning when a river began rising. The two were sleeping when the Scioto River started to rise, preventing them from returning to shore, the Columbus Fire Department reported. A fire department boat was sent to rescue them. No injuries were reported.

Mindy Broughton rushed into her mobile home Tuesday morning as hail began and winds picked up at the RV Park where she lives near Hanging Rock, Ohio.

Capt. Patrick Staudenheimer, left, with the Anchorage Middletown Fire Department, speaks with an employee of the Louisville Gas and Electric company informing him of possible gas leaks following severe storms in Prospect, Ky., Tuesday, April 2, 2024.
Timothy D. Easley / AP
/
AP
Capt. Patrick Staudenheimer, left, with the Anchorage Middletown Fire Department, speaks with an employee of the Louisville Gas and Electric company informing him of possible gas leaks following severe storms in Prospect, Ky., Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

Broughton and her fiance hunkered down as the mobile home quickly began rocking. Broughton said her fiance used his body to shield her as the winds raged outside.

"I said I think we may die today," she said.

In a matter of seconds, the winds died down. When Broughton opened her mobile home door, she saw the RV Park littered with debris and overturned RVs. Luckily, Broughton said there was no one inside the overturned mobile homes.

Northeast of Cincinnati, part of Interstate 75 was blocked Tuesday afternoon when about a half-dozen power poles toppled in high winds near Wetherington, WLWT-TV reported.

In Wisconsin, forecasters warned more than a foot (30 centimeters) of heavy snow could fall in eastern parts of the state, including the Green Bay area. The state's top election official, Meagan Wolfe, urged residents planning to vote in Tuesday's presidential primaries to consider voting earlier in the day to avoid travel woes.

The National Weather Service said snowfall totals could range from 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) over central Wisconsin and 8 to 14 inches (20 to 35 centimeters) over eastern Wisconsin, while wind gusts of 30 mph to 50 mph (48 kph to 80 kph) will create very limited visibility and make travel difficult.

"Just three weeks ago, we were in the 70s. So that kind of got people thinking spring is right around the corner — and here we're in April and we're getting a major snowstorm," meteorologist Scott Cultice with the weather service's Green Bay office said. "As people say, 'That's springtime in Wisconsin.'"

More than 70,000 homes and businesses in Wisconsin had lost power Tuesday night, according to poweroutage.us.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency after severe storms swept through his state Tuesday morning.

"We have reports of substantial damage to a number of structures — and thankfully, as of right now we are not aware of any fatalities," Beshear said in a statement.

Another round of storms Tuesday afternoon led to multiple tornado warnings in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

One person was hurt and taken to a hospital after a tree came down on their house in Lexington, Kentucky, Mayor Linda Gorton told WLEX-TV. Homes were damaged and a tree crushed a University of Kentucky student's car.

"I looked out my blinds and I see the wind just start roaring," Reese Sherrard told the news outlet. "I see one big tree just fall right on top of my car. No trees fell on our house, so it seems like we got pretty lucky."

In Louisville on Tuesday night, Mayor Craig Greenberg reported "serious" storm damage in the nearby city of Prospect and throughout the county, but said no injuries had been reported. He said fire crews were checking on people street by street in the most impacted areas and that he had declared a county-wide state of emergency.

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado in northeast Tennessee on Tuesday. A funeral home and a house were damaged in the town of Sunbright, a town of about 500 people, said Matthew Brown, Morgan County's 911 director. Power lines and trees were down, and some roads were closed, he said.

The utility company in Memphis, Tennessee, reported that about 40,000 homes and businesses lost power temporarily Tuesday morning after an electric substation was struck by lightning, which then affected two other substations.

Storms also swept through far southwestern Indiana on Tuesday morning, toppling trees and causing power outages, leading several local school districts to cancel classes. More than 18,000 homes and businesses were without power shortly before noon Tuesday, including in Vanderburgh County, home to Evansville, Indiana's third-largest city.

Severe weather was expected to move into New England on Wednesday night into Thursday, with forecasts of 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 centimeters) of snow in parts of New Hampshire and Maine and lesser amounts in other areas, the National Weather Service said. Wind gusts could reach 50 mph (80 kph) in some places, bringing the possibility of power outages.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press