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Large and dangerous tornado touches down in Kansas City outskirts

Flooding, tornadoes hit central U.S.
Severe weather hits central U.S. with flooding, tornadoes 03:57

Kansas City, Mo. -- A vicious storm tore through the Kansas City area Tuesday night, spawning tornadoes that downed trees and power lines, damaged homes and injured at least a dozen people. It was the latest barrage of severe weather in the central United States.

Parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey also were under tornado warnings Tuesday night, and a tornado was confirmed in the Morgantown area of Pennsylvania. Some homes and cars were damaged.

On Monday and early Tuesday, a swarm of tightly packed twisters swept through Indiana and Ohio, smashing homes, blowing out windows and ending the school year early for some students because of damage to buildings. One person was killed and at least 130 injured.

The funnel at Kansas City Tuesday made it a record 12 straight days that at least eight tornadoes were reported to the National Weather Service. After several quiet years, the past couple of weeks have seen an explosion of tornado activity with no end to the pattern in sight.

A large and dangerous tornado touched down on the western edge of Kansas City, Kansas, late Tuesday, the National Weather Service office reported. At least a dozen people were admitted to the hospital in Lawrence, 40 miles west of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and home to the University of Kansas, hospital spokesman Janice Early said.

The region's major airport, some 15 miles northwest of downtown K.C., tweeted an update on its status early Wednesday:

A meteorologist for CBS Kansas City affiliate KCTV, Brett Anthony, saw damage on the south side of Lawrence. Damage also was reported in the towns of Bonner Springs, Linwood and Pleasant Grove in Kansas.

But the Kansas City metropolitan area of about 2.1 million people appeared to have been spared the direct hit that was feared earlier in the evening when the weather service announced a tornado emergency.

Damage is seen from tornado in Kansas City area late on May 29, 2019 KCTV

"The heart of KC is in this tornado warning! This is a dangerous situation. TAKE SHELTER NOW!" the NWS Kansas City office tweeted.  The tornado warning for metro Kansas City was over by 7:35 p.m. CDT, but there were reports of dangerous weather moving through Missouri. 

Mark Duffin, 48, learned from his wife and a television report that the large tornado was headed toward his home in Linwood, about 30 miles west of Kansas City. The next thing he knew, the walls of his house were coming down.

Duffin told the Kansas City Star he grabbed a mattress, followed his 13-year-old to the basement and protected the two of them with the mattress as the home crashed down around them.

"I'm just glad I found my two dogs alive," he said. "Wife's alive, family's alive, I'm alive. So, that's it."

Monday marked the record-tying 11th straight day with at least eight tornadoes in the U.S., said Patrick Marsh, a Storm Prediction Center meteorologist. The last such stretch was in 1980.

Outbreaks of 50 or more tornadoes are not uncommon, having happened 63 times in U.S. history, with three instances of more than 100 twisters, Marsh said. But Monday's swarm was unusual because it happened over a particularly wide geographic area and came amid an especially active stretch, he said.

As for why it's happening, Marsh said high pressure over the Southeast and an unusually cold trough over the Rockies are forcing warm, moist air into the central U.S., triggering repeated severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. And neither system is showing signs of moving, he said.

May is already the fourth worst month for tornadoes ever recorded in the U.S., with more than 500 so far.

Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather such as storms, droughts, floods and fires, but without extensive study, they cannot directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.

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