Damaging Storms Rattle Plains Late Wednesday

May 31, 2012; 6:15 PM
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AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Meteorologist Cory Mottice took this photo of a 'shelf cloud' associated with a severe thunderstorm approaching Wichita, Kan., Wednesday evening.

The same storm system slated to trigger severe weather across the South and East to end the workweek got its legs late on Wednesday over the Plains, unleashing numerous powerful thunderstorms.

Numerous communities from Nebraska to Texas, including some large cities, were rattled by the damaging storms which unleashed hail to the size of softballs and grapefruits, as well as wind gusts as high as 90 mph.

As of early on Thursday morning, more than 300 reports of severe weather and damage were being compiled by the Storm Prediction Center from Wednesday's storms.

Among the reports were at least five tornadoes in non-populated areas, nearly 200 incidents of hail of at least an inch in diameter, and well over 100 reports of strong winds and wind damage.

Most of the severe weather reports were clustered from central Kansas to the Lone Star State in association with several complexes of severe storms that formed late in the afternoon into the nighttime hours.

Preliminary storm reports from the Storm Prediction Center from Wednesday and Wednesday night's storms, as of 4:10 a.m. EDT on Thursday. (SPC)

Wichita, Kan., home to AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, was rocked by one of those clusters of storms around 8:00 p.m. local time. Following an ominous storm cloud, winds gusted between 50 and 70 mph in the metropolitan area, while rain and small hail poured down for several minutes.

More than 5,000 people were still without power early on Thursday morning in Westar Energy's Kansas service area, including 2,300 alone in Sedgwick County, home to Wichita.

While impressive, Wichita did not stake claim to the strongest wind gust of the night. That dubious honor goes to Paducah, Texas, where winds were estimated at 90 mph as a thunderstorm rolled through town, uprooting full trees and sending sheet metal flying through the air.

Wind gusts in excess of 70 mph were also clocked in thunderstorms as they passed through Haskell, Texas; Carmen, Okla.; Grady, Okla. and Ninnekah, Okla.

Instagram user @mollymoso took this photo of hail in Hays, Kan., Wednesday afternoon.

With the wind gusts, trees up to 2 feet in diameter were toppled, some homes sustained roof damage and tractor trailers were blown off highways.

In addition to the strong winds, many storms produced large and damaging hail.

Golf ball-sized hail (1.75 inches in diameter) caused considerable damage to, among other things, a brand new convertible near North Platte, Neb., during the afternoon hours.

Incredibly large hail, to the size of softballs (4 inches in diameter) and grapefruits (4.5 inches in diameter), broke skylights and knocked limbs off healthy trees near the west-central Texas towns of Paducah and Millersview.

Unfortunately, several more rounds of severe weather are expected through Friday from Texas to the East Coast as the parent storm system advances east.

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