More than 300 reported tornadoes have ravaged the Midwest in the last two weeks — including five confirmed on Memorial Day in Eastern Iowa — during an unusual onslaught of extreme weather that has swollen rivers, shut down roads and caused casualties.
U.S. tornadoes have been linked to at least seven deaths this month — including one near Adair in Iowa — pushing the year’s fatality toll to 38, the New York Times reported.
The strong storms are expected to continue until Thursday in the central United States before easing, forecasters say, but then could resume next week. Already, damage from the high winds and soggy days is severe:
I-29 SEGMENTS CLOSE
Flooding again has closed Interstate 29 at several locations in western Iowa, the state Department of Transporation reported Wednesday. A segment northeast of Omaha, between Crescent and Loveland, was closed when water covered the lanes. The Iowa DOT said it also shut down I-29 in southwest Iowa from Highway 34 south to the Missouri state border. The interstate already was closed from previous flooding near Council Bluffs.
STORMS HIT KANSAS
At least one tornado touched down late Tuesday in northeastern Kansas, leading to warnings in the heavily populated metro Kansas City area. The storm injured at least 15 people, though no fatalities were reported. In Lawrence, Kan., homes, garages and barns were ripped apart. Power lines were down, trees blocked some roads and debris littered the area Wednesday morning. More than 3,000 buildings in the area still lacked power Wednesday.
The National Weather Service confirmed five of the reported tornadoes on Memorial Day in Eastern Iowa.
The strongest — an EF3 with peak winds of 140 mph — cut a 7.5- mile path over 17 minutes in southern Van Buren County, the National Weather Service reported. It destroyed a home and a hunting cabin.
The other Iowa tornadoes confirmed on Memorial Day:
• An EF1 with peak winds of 100 mph struck near Houghton in Lee County, damaging the roof of a metal shed.
• An EF1 with peak winds of 110 mph touched down near the Floyd County Fairgrounds, heavily damaging several outbuildings there, the weather service reported. But it missed the nearby Charles City.
• An EF1 with peak winds of 105 mph struck near Saratoga in Howard County. It cut a 10-mile path mostly over open fields, but did damage a wind turbine and some cattle barns, the weather service said.
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• An EF0 with peak winds of 70 mph touched down southwest of Burlington in Lee County, but the weather service said there were no reports of damage.
RIVERS SET TO RISE
The Cedar River in Cedar Rapids was forecast to crest Wednesday at 12.9 feet, or minor flood stage. The city said the crest at that level was expected to have little effect on the public, though some low-lying roads and parks were closed. The river is forecast to recede below flood stage by Monday.
The Iowa River in Iowa City already has crested without reaching the minor flood stage, the weather service reported.
And the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities area, which already is in major flood stage, is expected to crest at 21 feet — or 3 feet beyond major flood stage — on Saturday.
The Washington Post and Reuters contributed to this report