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Tornado that obliterated Linwood, Kansas, was mile-wide EF4 twister with top winds of 170 mph

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
May 31, 2019, 1:41:42 AM EDT

A tornado onslaught continued to rattle the central United States on Tuesday, making it the 12th consecutive day at least eight tornadoes had been reported across the country.

The most recent outbreak came in Kansas, where a massive tornado was confirmed Tuesday evening near Lawrence. The monstrous twister eventually tracked across the northeastern part of the state, pummeling several communities and prompting tornado emergencies in Kansas City and surrounding areas.

At least a dozen homes were damaged or destroyed in Linwood, Kansas, according to the Kansas City Star. At least 18 injuries were reported in Douglas County, emergency management officials said. Three of those were said to be serious.

On Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Kansas City released its final damage survey and determined that the tornado that ripped through Linwood was an EF4 storm with maximum winds of 170 mph. It was on the ground for more than 31 miles and had a maximum width of one mile.

This is only the third EF4 tornado of 2019 -- the first occurred in early March and was blamed for killing 23 in Lee County, Alabama. The second occurred in Dayton, Ohio, just one day prior to the Linwood twister. In 2018, there were no tornadoes stronger than an EF3 anywhere in the U.S.

EF4 Linwood tornado graphic

Billy Brumley, a resident of Linwood, spoke to the Star in the aftermath of the tornado. He told the newspaper that he was lying under support beams in his basement, praying for his life when the tornado struck.

“I’m fortunate to be alive, we’ve lost a lot here today, but got our life,” Brumley said.

Linwood Mayor Brian Christenson, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday that there were no fatalities and everyone was accounted for. About 400 people live in Linwood.

"I've never seen anything like it," Christenson said of the tornado. "It just picks one house randomly and takes it away, and the next house might not even get touched. The way it moves and picks and chooses, it's incredible."

Christenson added that he had lived in his current home for 22 years, but Tuesday was the first time he had to take shelter in his basement.

Lawrence Police said large trees, power lines and debris along roads made roads impassable in some areas. Major structural damage was not found within Lawrence city limits.

kansas city storms may 28 2019

People watch from the Liberty Memorial as a severe storm that dropped several tornados earlier approaches downtown Kansas City, Mo. Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer was tracking the tornado and successfully launched a probe into the tornado to collect data.

Tornado sirens blared across state lines in Kansas City, Missouri, with city officials urging residents to take shelter. While the tornado weakened before reaching the northwestern part of the city, the city still had to deal with a flash flood threat. The city received 1.56 inches of rain Tuesday, making this the wettest month of May in city history. The total of 12.81 inches surpassed the previous record of 12.75 inches in 1995.

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The Kansas City International Airport moved customers to a shelter due to a severe weather threat facing Kansas City, Kansas.

A significant amount of debris was tossed onto runways at the airport, and the airfield was forced to close Tuesday evening. It reopened shortly after midnight, local time, on Wednesday, according to the airport's Twitter account. The airport's operations staff picked up items such as pots, foam, wall panels, and plant id tags. It's presumed the tornado debris traveled about 47 miles from Linwood to the airport.

Dr. Patrick Marsh, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center, said Tuesday "sort of" set the record for most consecutive number of days with at least eight tornadoes.

"Tuesday was day 12, beating the old record of 11. I say "sort of" because the official record uses observed, confirmed tornadoes and we are still dealing with preliminary tornado counts for the current stretch," Marsh told AccuWeather in an email.

This follows the deadly tornado that hit Dayton, Ohio, on Monday night and the EF3 tornado that ripped through El Reno, Oklahoma, on Saturday night. Those were preceded by an EF3 tornado which slammed the Missouri state capital of Jefferson City late Wednesday, May 22.

Aside from the Linwood tornado, an EF2 tornado touched down near Kearney, Missouri, during Tuesday afternoon, damaging several homes and trees.

severe weather tornado

Joe Armison looks over damage to his home after a tornado struck the outskirts of Eudora, Kan., Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Wednesday marked the end of the severe weather outbreak across the Plains through at least Saturday.


On Wednesday, the greatest area of severe weather occurred from northeastern Texas to central Illinois and westward to Iowa. Multiple tornadoes touched down across Iowa on Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Damaging storms reached into the Northeast on Tuesday and Wednesday as well, with at least three confirmed tornadoes.

One storm-related injury was reported in Claymont, Delaware, where a tree fell onto a tent during a concert. Two people died from storm-related injuries on Wednesday afternoon.

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