Desperate search for tornado survivors in US – BBC News

welcome to bbc news emergency teams in six u.s states are continuing to search for survivors following one of the largest outbreaks of tornadoes in u.s history more than 70 people died in kentucky including dozens in a candle factory that was torn apart by the winds and the death toll is expected to rise above a hundred the state's governor said it would be a miracle if anyone else was found alive there have been reports of death too in arkansas missouri tennessee and illinois where six amazon workers have been confirmed dead after the roof of their warehouse collapsed our north america correspondent nomi iqbal reports from kentucky the scale of the destruction has been extraordinary in the dead of night dark funnel clouds roared across six states in four hours at huge speeds they tore through a path of more than 200 miles in kentucky hitting this small town of mayfield hard workers on christmas shifts at this candle factory were buried by several tornadoes that came hurtling in the dark it's thought up to 110 people were inside 40 have made it out this has been the most devastating tornado event in our state's history and for those that have seen it what it's done here in graves county and elsewhere it is state of emergency has been declared in kentucky as a huge rescue operation gets underway but authorities are facing huge challenges the police station in mayfield has been destroyed and firefighters have lost equipment there's no power nearly 200 troops from the national guard are helping and more than half of the population in this town are without electricity and water on one of the coldest months of the year this used to be a petrol station and the only reason we know that is because of a solitary petrol pump that's still standing in the middle of the forecourt all the others have blown over and the kiosk where you go into to pay for your petrol has completely disappeared it's lost underneath all this rubble here in the southern state of arkansas a nursing home was badly damaged killing at least one person injuring several and trapping more than a dozen others inside in the midwest state of illinois an amazon warehouse with up to a hundred people inside was ripped apart after the roof partially collapsed at least six people are dead president biden has called it an unimaginable tragedy and we still don't know how many lives are lost to the full extent of the damage but i want to emphasize what i told all the governors the federal government will do everything everything it can possibly do to help forecasters say the storm has now weakened but americans are being urged to get ready for more severe weather as the storms continue to sweep across the country normia iqbal bbc news kentucky well joining me now is jack sillan he's a meteorological analyst at cornell university thanks very much for joining us um why have these tornadoes been so destructive is it the sheer number or the ferocity or both well thanks for having me there are a couple of things that are going on here first and foremost i think is just the amount of energy that these storms had to tap into we have several ingredients that need to come together for tornadoes and all of them were present in quantities you know that exceed what we would normally see on a severe weather day the other thing that went into accentuating the impacts is the fact that it's they struck at night and that's when a lot of people are either asleep or not really tuned in to news information and so that makes the impact a lot more significant compared to if the tornadoes had struck earlier in the evening when people might be a bit more tuned in to weather information and what's the underlying reason for seeing these tornadoes and is it at all linked with climate change yeah so the reason that we saw tornadoes it has to do on this particular day anyway has to do with the storm that moved up into the great lakes it brought all this warm moist air from the gulf of mexico up into the midwest and in the mid-south and then that air was forced to rise the wind shear we had winds changing speed and direction and that's why you get the spinning in the atmosphere so the cause for these particular tornadoes was very natural these types of storms happen all the time that said the background environment is sort of shifting in favor of these types of events you're getting a warmer gulf of mexico due to climate change that enables more moisture as we talked about earlier the fact that we had an unusually large amount of moisture is one reason these storms were able to be so intense so much like your favorite soccer player would score a goal because of you know they kicked the ball in the right direction this time you know that's a that's a specific event but it's their training in the background that makes those events more or less likely and so mother nature unfortunately the tornadoes have been have been hitting the gym a little bit in terms of the climate change uh making them a bit more likely and are they occurring in areas parts of the earth that they they wouldn't normally or not you know not normally to the same degree so this type this area of the us is no stranger to tornadoes but to see them in mid-december is unusual we would normally expect severe weather to be confined to the immediate gulf coast at this time of year so the fact that the moisture was able to make it this far north into parts of kentucky illinois that is definitely unusual and one of the other fingerprints of climate change potentially that scientists will be looking into in the coming weeks and months

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