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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The National Weather Service and emergency officials recommend that you be vigilant and make plans should you need to act quickly and seek shelter during tornados.

  • Have multiple ways to receive weather alerts.
  • Avoid being outside in forested areas and near trees.
  • Should high winds or tornadoes occur, avoid windows and try to stay in lower levels of your home, if possible.
  • If you must drive, exercise "extreme caution," particularly around semitrucks, buses or other large vehicles.
  • Remove or secure outdoor furniture, grills and other items.
  • Immediately report injuries or hazards via 911.

Go deeper

Historic wind storm spawns tornadoes, causes widespread power outages

Satellite image showing smoke plumes from wildfires, blowing dust, and thunderstorms with lightning flashes detected across the Plains on Dec. 15. Image: CIRA/RAMMB

An expansive storm is unleashing an array of hazardous weather to a broad swath of the lower 48 states — with winds reaching 85 to 100 mph from Colorado to Iowa, along with record warmth that's fueled an ongoing derecho moving into Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Why it matters: The storm set all-time high temperatures for the month of December on Wednesday, as readings soared into the 70s all the way to the Iowa-Minnesota border. Its winds had knocked out power to some 500,000 customers in 10 states Thursday, with outages climbing in Iowa and Kansas, per poweroutage.us.

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Updated Dec 16, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Historic storm leaves path of damage across Iowa

Computer model projection of surface temperature departures from average on Wednesday afternoon. Image: Weatherbell.com

A monstrous line of thunderstorms rapidly moved across a large swath of Iowa Wednesday evening, creating severe weather threats never before recorded in the state in December.

Driving the news: The National Weather Service had only ever issued two tornado warnings in Iowa in December prior to this week, according to tornado researcher Harold Brooks. On Wednesday, forecasters issued more than a dozen in the state.

  • At least five tornadoes were sighted in western Iowa, while destructive gusts were recorded up to at least 80 miles per hour. One person died in the storms in Benton County, per Iowa State Patrol.
Updated 47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull.
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden to announce plan to distribute 400 million masks for free — Government website for free COVID tests launches early.
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker