Destructive storms that tore across the U.S. overnight brought a never-before-seen February tornado to Nebraska.
Eyewitness reports, images and video suggest that a weak tornado touched down yesterday (Feb. 29) in a remote part of the state. The storm didn't cause any damage, said National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Kenny Roberg, so that may be all the evidence that storm survey teams have to rate the storm. Storm survey teams are similar to forensic scientists; they assess the damage caused by severe storms and determine if tornadoes — or merely strong winds — are to blame.
The potential twister hit at 10:13 local time (11:13 EST) in Logan County, Neb., according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. An off-duty NWS employee reported the tornado.
Roberg said his NWS office in North Platte, Neb., checked their tornado records, and this is the first tornado known to hit Nebraska during the month of February. Tornado records began in 1950, so one could have struck before then. It's also possible that a February tornado has struck since 1950, but if it hit a remote part of the state, it could have easily gone unrecorded.
A video of yesterday's tornado gives "clear evidence" of a tornado touchdown, Roberg told OurAmazingPlanet. The twister was likely a "very week EF-0" storm on the tornado rating scale, Roberg said, and may have touched down several different times along its path.
The overnight storms are the latest in what has been a busy winter for severe weather. The Nebraska twister was one of 16 reported nighttime tornadoes that struck across the Plains and Midwest yesterday and early this morning. Indiana and Kentucky had one reported tornado each. Kansas and Illinois had two and three reported tornadoes, respectively. Missouri saw eight possible tornadoes.
Branson, Mo., suffered a direct hit to its entertainment district. Multiple hotels and theaters were damaged during the severe weather, but no fatalities were reported.
At least one person was killed in Buffalo, Mo., during the storms. In Harrisburg, Ill., at least 10 people are dead after storms hit the town early today, reported Brian Wilkes, chief meteorologist with FOX 59 Indianapolis.
The storms that are spawning tornadoes are continuing to sweep across the country, with ongoing reports of possible twisters.