The first snow of winter is coming for parts of the US South and Mid-Atlantic

Winter weather alerts are in place from eastern Texas through Tennessee and into the Mid-Atlantic. Across portions of Texas and Louisiana, a mix of light freezing rain, sleet and snow could lead to a trace of ice accumulations and a light glaze — mainly on elevated surfaces — through Sunday morning.

Portions of northern Alabama, northern Georgia, northern South Carolina and eastern Tennessee are now under a winter storm warning, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). These areas may see around 2 to 5 inches of snow, especially in higher elevations.

There are now at least 14 million people under a winter storm warning.

Across northern Mississippi, most areas could also see up to an inch of snow through Monday morning. Some isolated locations, especially in higher elevations, could see upwards of 2 inches fall.

Higher snowfall totals of 4 to 8 inches are possible across the southern Appalachians in areas covered by winter storm warnings. Areas of the Mid-Atlantic, including Washington, DC, could see snowfall accumulations of 3 to 6 inches through Monday.

In addition, winter weather alerts are in place across interior portions of New England, where 3 to 5 inches of fresh snow are expected Sunday.

Meanwhile, severe storms and flooding rains are forecast for a stretch of the Southeast.

A level 2 out of 5 risk for severe storms is in place across the Southeast on Sunday, including for Savannah, Georgia; Tallahassee, Florida; and Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina. Thunderstorms with damaging wind gusts, a few tornadoes and isolated large hail are all possible through Sunday night.

Severe storms and flooding rains were forecast for a swath of the Southeast.

Heavy rain is also possible over much of the Southeast on Sunday as the storm system moves east, increasing the chances of flash flooding. A level 2 out of 4 risk of excessive rainfall is in effect for a small portion of southern South Carolina and eastern Georgia.

Arctic air and wind chill alerts

East Coast temperatures will be above average Sunday before giving way to more seasonal air behind the passing storm system.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency for five counties that are currently under a winter storm warning.

Beginning at 9 p.m., Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean Counties entered a state of emergency. State offices will have a delayed Monday opening at 10 a.m., Murphy said.

Up to 2 inches of snow is possible and coastal flooding is anticipated in southern counties.

Meanwhile, below normal temperatures are expected over much of the central US and cold air continues to spread south and east. Some locations have seen temperatures drop 20 to 30 degrees since Saturday. Wind chill alerts encompass more than 20 million people from Minnesota to northern Texas.

The coldest air Sunday morning was across the northern tier — where temperatures remained well below zero with wind chills as low as 50 below. The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

As cold air surges south, much of the South and Gulf Coast will see high temperatures in the 40s and 50s Sunday through Monday.

Heavy snow possible in Pacific Northwest

Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories are in effect for much of the Northwest mountains in addition to the Sierras as a new system brews across the Pacific Northwest. This system will bring heavy snow and travel hazards to these higher elevations through Monday.

“A slow-moving cold front will produce 1-2 feet of snow for the northern Cascades and Olympic Mountains on Sunday before shifting focus to the southern Cascades on Monday, where 2-4 feet is likely,” the NWS said.

The snow was expected to spread farther south throughout the day on Sunday bringing 6 to 12 inches of snow to the northern Sierras and northern Rockies.

This system will also bring heavy rainfall to the coasts and valley regions where isolated areas could be at risk for flash flooding.

Strong winds were also forecast across the region and high wind alerts were issued.

“These strong winds may cause significant blowing snow from dry powdery snow that is currently on the ground. This may result in significant reductions in visibility … especially over mountain passes and open terrain,” the weather service warned.

This reduced visibility will certainly lead to hazardous travel across the region to start the week.

Kentucky braces for winter weather

Kentucky, still reeling from deadly tornadoes last month, is preparing for winter weather to arrive later Sunday after severe weather impacted much of the state over the weekend.
'The whole town is gone'

Several homes and buildings have been damaged, power outages are affecting more than 1,000 customers, and 75 roadways were reported closed throughout the state due to flooding, according to a news release from Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s office.

Four tornadoes touched down, the NWS reported, and surveys continue in several counties, according to the news release.

There were also at least seven landslides as well as washouts, and one bridge embankment was destroyed, according to the governor.

No fatalities or injuries have so far been confirmed or reported, the news release said.

Beshear planned to travel to Hopkinsville on Monday to assess the damage and will also visit Graves and Hopkins counties to check on rebuilding efforts following the fatal tornadoes last month.

CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.

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Des Moines Public Works clears roads

Des Moines Public Works responds to first snow


Des Moines Public Works responds to first snow

The new year is off to an icy start: the first storm of the season is finally here. Des Moines Public Works says plow teams were out last night working all the snow routes with salt spreaders. When the storm finally showed up today, the city sent out a full response: 100 pieces of equipment and 100 people behind the wheel. Des Moines Public Works says they will be working the snow routes continuously. Once the snow stops, they will clear the rest of the side streets across the Des Moines area. City officials say it’s important to follow safe winter driving tips, especially since it’s been months since anyone’s driven in the snow. Des Moines Public Works Director Jonathan Gano says “What’s very unusual about this storm is the very unseasonably cold temperatures were down in single digits already and will get down below zero in the overnight hours. At that point, the salt works much less effectively.”Gano tells Iowans “stay home if you don’t need to go anywhere,” and to reduce speeds when driving.KCCI’s Amanda Rooker reports.

The new year is off to an icy start: the first storm of the season is finally here.

Des Moines Public Works says plow teams were out last night working all the snow routes with salt spreaders.

When the storm finally showed up today, the city sent out a full response: 100 pieces of equipment and 100 people behind the wheel.

Des Moines Public Works says they will be working the snow routes continuously. Once the snow stops, they will clear the rest of the side streets across the Des Moines area.

City officials say it’s important to follow safe winter driving tips, especially since it’s been months since anyone’s driven in the snow.

Des Moines Public Works Director Jonathan Gano says “What’s very unusual about this storm is the very unseasonably cold temperatures were down in single digits already and will get down below zero in the overnight hours. At that point, the salt works much less effectively.”

Gano tells Iowans “stay home if you don’t need to go anywhere,” and to reduce speeds when driving.

KCCI’s Amanda Rooker reports.

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Tornado from rare supercell causes damage in Georgia

“Based on the visual and radar appearance of the storms, we do believe several of the storms Friday were a type of rotating storm, or supercell, known as a low-precipitation or LP supercell, ” Steve Nelson, Science and Operations Officer for the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Atlanta, said.

“LP supercells are more common in the High Plains region of the US,” Nelson said, and are scarcely seen in the Southeast.

When LP supercells are present, the odds of also including a tornado are even lower. Such storms are much more likely to produce very large hail.

“An LP supercell has less precipitation and based on studies, these storms can produce tornadoes, but are somewhat less likely,” Nelson said.

Nelson added precipitation descending along the back side of a rotating storm plays a key role in how tornadoes form. It’s very much a case of “Goldilocks” conditions.

“If there is too much precipitation, it can cut off the warm air going into the updraft which fuels the storm,” Nelson said. “Too little precipitation and you lose mechanisms that create rotation near the ground and potentially a tornado.”

Such storms are more challenging to see on radar than more “traditional” severe storms. Meteorologists heavily rely on radar reflectivity to monitor where storms are located.

“You need precipitation, like rain, hail, etc., in order to see how the air is moving in the atmosphere. So when there is no precipitation in the atmosphere it makes it hard to understand the movements that are occurring within a storm,” Kyle Thiem, meteorologist with the NWS office in Atlanta.

Nelson added, “without precipitation, the storm is almost impossible to detect,” which explains why Weather Service offices around the country rely on storm spotters on the ground.

“Reports from spotters and county officials in Carroll and Newton counties were extremely helpful and allowed warnings to be issued for areas in the path of the storm and other storms that had similar features,” Nelson said.

The storm in Carroll County, which includes the northwestern suburbs of Atlanta, and the one in Newton County located between Augusta and Atlanta, both had ideal atmospheric conditions for supercells to develop and form tornadoes, however they were very small in overall size.

“Because the storms were incredibly shallow, that limited the growth of the parent supercell, which is why so little precipitation was falling,” Thiem said. “Fully formed supercells have a much better ability to harness the low-level shear into the atmosphere in order to produce a tornado.”

Tornadoes themselves are not rare in Georgia, averaging 26 per year. Having one in December is not unheard of, as the Peach State averages at least two tornadoes every single month of the year.

Georgia is 5th in terms of tornado fatalities, averaging four per year, tied with Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. Thankfully Friday’s storms did not cause any fatalities.

One of the main difference in Friday’s tornadoes was they were not rain-wrapped, as they often are in the Southeast. The storms and the tornadoes associated with them were highly visible.

When tornadoes are rain-wrapped, in “high precipitation” (HP) supercell storms, they are often more deadly because they are difficult to see.

HP supercells make low-level storm features such as wall clouds and tornadoes difficult to identify, the NWS office in Amarillo, Texas, where LP supercells are more common, pointed out.

By definition, LP supercells have very little if any rain associated with them, which is why it is very easy to see the wall cloud in photos from Covington, Georgia.

Image of tornado warned storm from Conyers, Georgia looking towards Covington, Georgia. This storm caused tornado damage over Covington on New Year's Eve.

“Low-precipitation storms are very rare in Georgia, or in the eastern US anywhere really, because East of the Mississippi River is so much more humid on average than the Plains. But it does happen from time to time, especially in the cooler season,” said Brandon Miller, CNN Meteorologist. “Nearly 15 years ago to the day, on January 2, 2006, a similar storm with little rain and a very unremarkable presentation on radar produced an EF-3 tornado in Georgia.”

Nelson confirmed the 2006 event is the only other “formally documented” case of this type of storm occurring in Georgia.

While Friday’s tornadoes weren’t EF3’s like the one in 2006, they did cause damage.

Two separate EF1 tornadoes were confirmed on Saturday by the NWS.

The one in Newton County lasted just under 10 minutes and traveled 2.5 miles. It damaged a few homes, businesses, and a middle school. Two cars were flipped in a restaurant parking lot, and a total of six injuries were reported.

Storm damage from Newton County, Georgia from a tornado warned storm on New Year's Eve.

The tornado in Carroll County lasted just under 15 minutes and traveled nearly 3 miles. While there were no injuries, numerous trees were brought down, and minor building damage was reported.

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Snowboarders, skiers take advantage of snowfall | News

Monday morning’s snow was welcome news for skiers and snowboarders across the state who were waiting for some fresh snow to hit the slopes.

“It is a great day today. Mother nature shined on us overnight and gave us a little bit of new natural snow,” said Mark Tibbitts, president and general manager of the Mt. Holly Ski Area. “It’s amazing how natural snow on the ground just brings people into the skiing mode.”

Tibbitts said more than 1,000 people came out to enjoy the fresh coat of snow on Monday.

“Feels fantastic. The snow is feeling really good. Having a lot of fun. My first time out here this year,” said Matthew Grawburg, customer.

Grawburg made the drive north from Warren.

“It’s a lot of fun to be on the snow and just to get a good feel of the outdoors in the middle of winter. It’s fantastic,” Grawburg said.

The same goes for Kelsey Livingston.

“It’s the first day where there’s like snow from the nature itself. So I’m having a blast,” Livingston said.

Livingston said she arrived early to hit the slopes. She said Mt. Holly is the place to be when the snow flies.

“It’s going to be a blast. You’ll fall a few times. It’s really a great time,” she said.

As for Tibbitts, he is optimistic winter weather events that provide inches of snow at a time will be more common soon. In the meantime, he said there are plenty of reasons for snow enthusiasts to stop by.

“Winter has been a little on and off. But we’ve still got plenty of snow out here and plenty of trails for you to skin in,” Tibbitts said.

During the season, Mt. Holly is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days a week as long as it’s cold enough and there is snow.

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Weather forecast: Snow and cold will make for difficult post-Christmas travel for US West and North

Across the Intermountain West, “travel will remain dangerous and is discouraged, especially along mountain passes where long duration closures are likely. Dangerous avalanches are also likely in the Sierra Nevada, Washington Cascades, Northern Rockies, and Wasatch,” the Weather Prediction Center said Saturday.

Bitter cold in the coming days will impact states from Montana to Michigan.

“Dangerously cold wind chills. Wind chills as low as 55 below zero,” the National Weather Service office in Great Falls, Montana, said Sunday in an update. “The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 5 minutes.” The warning remains in effect until Monday afternoon.

Meantime, unseasonable warmth will continue to toast the South as wildfire risk stretches across the central Plains.

Avalanche warnings in 6 Western states

All this snow may be a ski lover’s dream, but it also covers roads and reduces visibility. Avalanche warnings were in effect Sunday for portions of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and California as recent heavy snowfall and wind have made for widespread areas of unstable snow.

Injuries reported in 20 car pileup during whiteout conditions in Nevada
“Avalanches may run long distances and can run into lower angle terrain typically thought of as safe,” the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center warned Sunday.
Large snow and rain systems have moved through Western states in the past few weeks, resulting in impressively high snowpack for California. The Golden State by Saturday had recorded 130% of its normal snowpack for that date; it had been at only 18% on December 1.
And more moisture is on the way for much of the West over the next several days. New snowfall will be measured in feet across the Sierras, Cascades and Rocky Mountains. A band of heavier snow has setup in the Seattle metro area Sunday, with snow accumulations of 4 to 6 inches expected, with locally higher total possible.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport thanked travelers for their patience in the poor conditions.

“Evening crews are gearing up for continued snow and ice maintenance on runways, taxilanes, and the ramps. The snow impacted many travelers today. Thanks for hanging in there. Stay in touch with your airline for possible delays and cancellations,” it said on Twitter Sunday night.

The city of Eugene, Oregon, declared a snow emergency Sunday.

“The emergency declaration means all vehicles must be removed immediately from designated snow emergency routes,” the city said in a release. “By banning parking, the City is able to ensure that emergency vehicles, buses, and other essential traffic can move safely around town, and that parked and stalled vehicles do not hamper snow removal operation.”

More snow and freezing conditions were expected in the city overnight, the release said.

Heavy rainfall is expected in lower elevations, possibly leading to localized flash flooding in places where the ground is saturated. Las Vegas, for example, has picked up 2 inches of rain since Wednesday — four times its December average. Rain is due to return there Monday, potentially mixing in with some snow on Tuesday.
More rain also is forecast for parts of the West Coast that saw heavy rain the past 24 hours. That includes areas of Santa Barbara County, California, and other northwestern Los Angeles suburbs, which just picked up over an inch of rain. A weather gauge near the University of Southern California campus reported nearly a 10th of an inch in just 2 minutes overnight Saturday, according to the NWS office in Los Angeles.

Frigid conditions for the Midwest

Snow will fall Sunday across the Upper Midwest, with accumulations of over a foot possible from the Dakotas through northern Michigan. Winter storm alerts have been issued for eastern North Dakota, northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.

Skier dies after being 'fully buried' in a Colorado avalanche
“Accumulating snow, along with potential drifting will make some roads nearly impossible to traverse,” the weather service office in Grand Forks, North Dakota, said Sunday. “As we head into Monday, blowing snow becomes more of an impact, with reduced visibility likely.”
As this system sweeps over the Great Lakes, lake-effect snow enhancements are certain as most of the lakes remain ice-free. Heavy lake-effect snow coupled with winds gusting to 40 mph will lead to near-blizzard conditions. Blizzard warnings could be issued, according to weather service in Duluth, Minnesota.
“Temperatures outside in the Northern Plains will be frightful this week,” the prediction center said Sunday in a tweet. “A large area will drop below 0F with some areas falling to -30F. Wind will make it feel even colder. Very limited exposure — if any — outside would be ideal.”

Even after this system moves through, the cold temperatures don’t let up.

Morning lows are forecast to be sub-zero across portions of Montana and North Dakota, with daytime highs Sunday struggling to get out of the single digits. By Monday morning, lows are forecast to be bitterly cold, potentially as cold as below 15 to below 25, and wind chills will be even colder.

Fargo, North Dakota, goes from a high of 25 degrees on Monday to a high of only 1 degree on Tuesday. Denver sees a similar drop, from 48 degrees Monday to 34 degrees Tuesday.

Warmth continues further south, as does fire threat

Remarkably warm temperatures remain anchored over the southern US and will continue into the first half of the week. Over 250 total daily record warm lows and highs are expected to be broken in the next few days.

Temperature departures today will be warmest in the southern Plains, with highs in the 70s and 80s — 25 to 40 degrees above normal.

A “critical risk” of fire weather — level 2 out of 3 — is in effect across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and in eastern Colorado and western Kansas owing to the unusually warm temperatures, low humidity levels and windy conditions.

Sustained winds of 30 to 50 mph with gusts of 60 to 80 mph could lead to blowing dust and difficult travel conditions across these regions Sunday. High wind warnings and red flag warnings are in place.

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California snow drought ends in dramatic fashion, while other states still deal with shortage

“Increases in snowpack of this size are not common, but also not unprecedented,” Julie Kalansky, deputy director of operations for the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E), explained.

Kalansky pointed out previous studies have shown a jump on this scale can happen about twice every three years, but usually over the course of an entire winter, not just the month of December.

While they don’t have the exact rankings for each month of the year, “most of the storm events in the study we referenced for the above calculation were in the second half of December and later into the season,” Kalansky added.

The sudden change gives California its wettest start to the Water Year in more than 40 years, thanks to several drought-denting rain and snow systems pushing through the area in recent weeks. The Water Year runs from October 1 through September 30 of the following year.

Parts of California are known for whiplash weather, but the rapid changes are quite remarkable given the snowpack was off to such a rough start, after a very warm and dry November for much of the state.

Northern California is doing a little better in terms of its water year, compared to where it was last year. While not at record levels, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Sacramento tweeted the Northern Sierra precipitation is above average for this time of year, and exceptionally better than the same time last year.

However, Southern California was only able to take advantage of one of the larger atmospheric river systems recently.

“The Tuesday storm that brought 1 to 2 inches of rain to the coastal and valley areas put a dent in our rainfall deficit,” the NWS office in San Diego said last week.

The area was so far behind prior to last week’s storm, the recent rainfall only brought the region back to where it normally should be at this time of year, rather than ahead.

California is just one state in the West, and not all states are equal in terms of moisture received by recent storms.

“While stormy weather in December increased snowpack in California, snow water equivalent is at record lows in some stations in NM, CO, UT, MT, WY, NV,” the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) said in a tweet.

The Sierras can collect a lot of the moisture from big storms, but block it from entering neighboring states.

A US Department of Agriculture snow mapping tool showed while some areas of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Arizona have relatively high snow water equivalent percentages, other states such as Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming are struggling, compared to average totals.

Snow deficits in Colorado affect millions more people beyond the state’s borders. When the snowpack melts in the spring it supplies the Colorado River Basin’s water supply.

Chelsea Peters, a meteorologist with the NWS office in Las Vegas explained Intermountain West snowpack, or lack thereof, can have cascading impacts on southwestern states, especially if snowpack levels are below average for several years in a row.

“Several years of below-normal snowpack across the Intermountain West mountains that supply the Colorado River Basin will continue to increase the water supply stress, which was already in jeopardy due to population increase,” Peters said. “We recently saw this impact reservoir storage and lake levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Within the last year, both Lake Powell and Lake Mead have observed their lowest reservoir storage levels in 30 years.”

More storms on the way

More rain and snow is entering the West Coast thanks to three separate waves of moisture.

The first arrived Saturday in the Pacific Northwest, bringing heavy coastal rain and mountain snow, creating dangerous travel conditions along the Cascades.

Sunday, the low pressure system will shift south into Oregon and northern California.

Snowfall totals will range from 3-6 inches for interior northwestern states, with as much as 2-3 feet for the highest elevations of the Cascade, Sierra, and northern Rocky Mountains.

The CW3E is forecasting a Level 3 atmospheric river event for the western states.

An atmospheric river pumps incredible amounts of moisture off the Pacific Ocean into Western states, resulting in very heavy rain and snow.

By Monday and Tuesday, heavy precipitation will spread from Washington to central California.

“Rain and snow chances return by early next week, becoming widespread by late Monday,” the NWS office in Sacramento said Saturday. “A series of storms will continue this threat through the week into next weekend. Mountain travel will likely be significantly impacted at times.”

Over the next five days, widespread rainfall totals of 2-4 inches are expected along the coastlines and lowlands.

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US weather: More than 400K have no power across central states after storms deliver record spate of hurricane-force gusts

At least 55 reports of hurricane-force thunderstorm wind gusts over 75 mph were made across the Great Plains and Midwest, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center — the most recorded in the US in one day. More than 400 severe wind reports came in across the regions to early Thursday, with alerts impacting at least 80 million people.

At least one person has died from storm-related weather. A driver of a Bimbo Bakeries tractor trailer died in Iowa when the vehicle was hit by a strong gust of wind and rolled over on its side into a ditch, according to an incident report from the Iowa State Patrol.

Nearly 20 tornado reports were documented Wednesday across Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. A tornado in southeastern Minnesota was the first ever reported in the state in the month of December, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data.

Record heat much farther north than expected this time of year fueled the storms. “I’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’re seeing things today in the CNN Weather Center we have never seen before,” CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said.
More than 423,000 power outages were reported as of 3 p.m. ET Thursday in the areas affected, according to Michigan and Wisconsin were reporting the highest number of outages.

Severe thunderstorm watches and warnings expired overnight, though strong winds — with gusts up to 70 mph — remain Thursday for parts of the Great Lakes area.

Wednesday’s storm outbreak comes days after an eight-state tornado outbreak that included the deadliest December tornado ever recorded in the United States.

Damage reported from Colorado to Michigan

In the west-central Wisconsin city of Stanley, a storm that hit Wednesday evening severely damaged several homes and other buildings, pictures posted by city police Thursday morning showed.
Intense storm spawns tornadoes, including first ever observed in Minnesota during December
Streets and yards were littered with debris in the city of about 3,500 people. One building’s brick wall was obliterated, falling onto a street. “We are relieved to report that the storm that swiftly swept through” the city “only resulted in property damage,” Stanley police said in a Facebook post. No injuries were reported.
In northern Michigan, where most of the state’s power outages were reported, concerns about strong winds prompted officials Thursday to temporarily ban high-profile vehicles like tractor-trailers from traversing the Mackinac Bridge connecting the Upper and Lower peninsulas, the state transportation department said.

Several places in Colorado, including the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, reported wind gusts of 100 mph or greater Wednesday, according to the weather service. Winds gusting up to 107 mph in Lamar toppled tractor-trailers, ripped off roofs and downed trees, Mayor Kirk Crespin said.

Members of a Colorado Springs utilities crew remove a fallen tree that crushed a car Wednesday.
Air traffic controllers briefly evacuated their workspace at Kansas City International Airport on Wednesday due “to wind and the fact that it is a glass box 256 feet up in the air,” spokesperson Joe McBride said. Planes resumed departures about one hour after controllers were forced to head to safety, the airport announced.
Parts of Interstate 70 in western Kansas were shut down Wednesday afternoon due to blowing dust, reduced visibility, and crashes, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Paramedics tend to an injured person Wednesday on an onramp to I-25 in Colorado Springs.

Wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma force evacuations

Strong winds also exacerbated concerns about wildfires in parts of the southern Plains and Southwest.
The combination of 35- to 55-mph winds, with gusts of 75 mph, as well as low relative humidity and temperatures in the 70s and 80s, led the Storm Prediction Center — for the first time in its history — to warn of an “extremely critical” fire threat in December in the southern and central Plains. Certain areas are also facing an ongoing drought.

An evacuation order was in effect Wednesday for the town of Guymon, Oklahoma, due to one of nine wildfires in western and northwestern Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

Strong winds caused damage in Stanley, Wisconsin, as seen in this photo provided by the police department there.

In northern Texas, several hundred people were told “to evacuate or be prepared to evacuate” in the city of Iowa Park in Wichita County, where two fires are ongoing.

“The fire has changed direction a couple of times,” Wichita County Sheriff’s Deputy Melvin Joyner said, adding, “We’re working as hard as we can to keep residents safe.”

A 2,500-acre blaze is burning west of Amarillo, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported, and the agency is responding to the fires in Texas’ Wichita County.

A wildfire damaged six homes and two other structures in the Texas Panhandle city of Pampa, city officials said Wednesday. No injuries were reported.

Severe weather hit Minnesota, with a reported tornado being the first ever in the state in December.

Kentucky still assessing damage from last week

As the storms swept across the central US, Kentucky and other states are still picking up the pieces from last week’s tornado outbreak.
The damage rating for Friday night’s deadly tornado that tore through Mayfield and Dawson Springs in Kentucky has been upgraded to an EF-4 in intensity, with estimated peak winds of 190 mph, based on continuing damage surveys from the National Weather Service.
Kentucky man raises money to buy toys for kids affected by deadly tornadoes

The tornado had a maximum path width of a mile or more and was on the ground for at least 128 miles, tracking across the entire area of responsibility for the weather service’s Paducah office. The tornado took more than two hours to move through western Kentucky.

The tornado length will likely increase as weather service offices near Paducah continue their surveys in the coming days, and the rating could be increased as well as more damage is surveyed.

President Joe Biden toured the areas hit on Wednesday and said he was shocked by the amount of damage wrought.

“The scope and scale of this destruction is almost beyond belief,” he said in Dawson Springs. “These tornadoes devoured everything in their path.”

A couple that lost a relative and their home in Kentucky's tornadoes counts themselves lucky. But they wonder what's next

Biden pledged federal funding for the recovery effort for the next 30 days, including “debris removal, cost of overtime and law enforcement, emergency service personnel and shelter, and that will get you through.”

Kentucky’s confirmed death toll from the tornadoes has been updated to 71 from 74 due to duplicate reporting, according to Kentucky Emergency Management. At least 14 others died in four other states.

CNN’s Dave Hennen, Steve Almasy, Robert Shackelford, Raja Razek, Joe Sutton, DJ Judd, Melissa Alonso, Amy Simonson and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.

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2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Fast Facts

Follow the storm tracker for the path and forecasts of the latest storm.
The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. The areas covered include the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
The National Weather Service defines a hurricane as a “tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.”
Hurricanes are rated according to intensity of sustained winds on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The 1-5 scale estimates potential property damage.

A Category 3 or higher is considered a major hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center advises preparedness:

A hurricane watch indicates the possibility that a region could experience hurricane conditions within 48 hours.

A hurricane warning indicates that sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 36 hours.


April 8, 2021 – The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project team predicts an above-average Atlantic hurricane season. The team forecasts 17 named storms, including eight hurricanes.
May 20, 2021 – The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts a 60% chance for an above-normal season, predicting that there is a 70% chance of having 13 to 20 named storms, of which six to 10 could develop into hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes (Categories 3-5).
August 4, 2021 NOAA doubles down on its initial seasonal prediction, announcing that forecaster’s confidence has increased and the probability of an above-normal season has risen from 60% to 65%, leaving only a 10% probability of a below-normal season and a 25% probability of a normal season. The agency now predicts 15-21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, of which three to five are forecast to be major, which remains unchanged from their previous outlook.

2021 Atlantic Storm Names

Hurricane names are pulled from six rotating lists maintained and updated by the World Meteorological Organization. Storm names are retired only when those storms are particularly deadly or costly.

• Ana
• Bill
• Claudette
• Danny
• Elsa
• Fred
• Grace
• Henri
• Ida
• Julian
• Kate
• Larry
• Mindy
• Nicholas
• Odette
• Peter
• Rose
• Sam
• Teresa
• Victor
• Wanda

March 17, 2021 – It is announced that the Greek alphabet will no longer be used to name storms when the normal list of storm names is exhausted. A supplemental list of names will be used instead.

Tropical Storm Ana

Tropical Storm Bill

June 14, 2021 – Tropical Storm Bill forms northeast of North Carolina.
June 16, 2021 – Weakens to a post-tropical cyclone.

Tropical Storm Claudette

Tropical Storm Danny

June 28, 2021 – Tropical Storm Danny forms off the coast of South Carolina and makes landfall just north of Hilton Head. Later, Danny weakens to a tropical depression.

Hurricane Elsa

July 1, 2021 – Tropical Storm Elsa forms in the Atlantic.
July 2, 2021 – Strengthens into a hurricane near the Lesser Antilles, making it the first hurricane of the season.
July 3, 2021 – Weakens to a tropical storm. Three people are reported dead, two in the Dominican Republic and one on the island of St. Lucia.
July 5, 2021 – Makes landfall in Cuba.
July 7, 2021 – Makes landfall in Florida in Taylor County. Winds from Elsa causes a tree to fall on two cars during an afternoon commute in Jacksonville, Florida, killing one person.

Tropical Storm Fred

August 10, 2021 – Tropical Storm Fred forms off the coast of Puerto Rico.
August 11, 2021 Fred weakens to a tropical depression over the island of Hispaniola.
August 15, 2021 – Fred regains tropical storm status over the Gulf of Mexico.
August 16, 2021 – Makes landfall in the Florida Panhandle near Cape San Blas.
August 17, 2021 – Weakens to a tropical depression.

Hurricane Grace

August 14, 2021 – Tropical Storm Grace forms in the Atlantic.
August 15, 2021 – Grace weakens to a tropical depression.
August 17, 2021 – Restrengthens to a tropical storm.
August 18, 2021 – Strengthens into a hurricane.
August 19, 2021 Makes landfall along the eastern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico near Tulum. Grace later weakens into a tropical storm.
August 20, 2021 – Grace strengthens into a category 3 hurricane.
August 21, 2021 – Makes landfall south of Tuxpan on the eastern coast of Mexico, killing at least eight people.

Hurricane Henri

August 16, 2021 – Tropical Storm Henri forms near Bermuda.
August 21, 2021 – Strengthens into a hurricane.
August 22, 2021 – Weakens to a tropical storm and makes landfall along the coast of Rhode Island.

Hurricane Ida

August 26, 2021 Tropical Storm Ida forms in the Caribbean.
August 27, 2021 – Hurricane Ida makes landfall in Cuba.
August 29, 2021 – Ida makes landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Louisiana. The storm claims the lives of at least 26 people across Louisiana and two in Mississippi, destroying businesses and neighborhoods and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands.
August 30, 2021 – Weakens to a tropical depression.
August 31-September 2, 2021 – The remnants of Ida makes its way to the Northeast, where it delivers another round of misery, flooding streets, homes and neighborhoods. At least 54 people die across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Tropical Storm Julian

August 29, 2021 – Tropical Storm Julian forms in the Atlantic.
August 30, 2021 – Weakens to a post-tropical cyclone.

Tropical Storm Kate

August 30, 2021 – Tropical Storm Kate forms in the Atlantic.
August 31, 2021 – Weakens to a tropical depression.

Hurricane Storm Larry

September 1, 2021 – Tropical Storm Larry forms off the west coast of Africa.
September 2, 2021 – Strengthens into a hurricane.
September 10, 2021 – Makes landfall in Newfoundland.
September 11, 2021 – Weakens to a post-tropical cyclone.

Tropical Storm Mindy

September 8, 2021 – Tropical Storm Mindy forms in the Gulf of Mexico. Later in the day, Mindy makes landfall over St. Vincent Island, Florida.
September 9, 2021 – Weakens to a tropical depression.

Hurricane Nicholas

September 12, 2021 – Tropical Storm Nicholas forms in the Gulf of Mexico.
September 13, 2021 – Strengthens into a hurricane.
September 14, 2021 – Makes landfall along the Texas coast and then weakens to a tropical storm.
September 16, 2021 – Weakens to a post-tropical cyclone.

Tropical Storm Odette

September 17, 2021 – Tropical Storm Odette forms off the mid-Atlantic coast.
September 18, 2021 – Weakens to a post-tropical cyclone south of Nova Scotia.

Tropical Storm Peter

September 19, 2021 – Tropical Storm Peter forms in the open Atlantic.
September 21, 2021Weakens to a tropical depression.

Tropical Storm Rose

September 19, 2021 – Tropical Storm Rose forms about 370 miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands.
September 21, 2021 – Weakens to a tropical depression.

Hurricane Sam

September 23, 2021 – Tropical Storm Sam forms.
September 24, 2021 – Strengthens into a hurricane.
October 5, 2021 – Weakens to a post-tropical cyclone between Newfoundland and Iceland.

Subtropical Storm Teresa

September 24, 2021 – Subtropical Storm Teresa develops north of Bermuda.
September 25, 2021 – Weakens to a subtropical depression.

Tropical Storm Victor

September 29, 2021 – Tropical Storm Victor forms about 500 miles south of the Cape Verde Islands.
October 2, 2021 – Weakens to a tropical depression.

Tropical Storm Wanda

October 30, 2021 – Subtropical Storm Wanda develops over the central Atlantic Ocean.
November 1, 2021 – Strengthens to a tropical storm.
November 7, 2021 – Weakens to a post-tropical cyclone.

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Urban heat islands in Atlanta highlight areas impacted by redlining

“The windows are painted shut,” Scott said. “We come outside at night to sleep because it’s too hot inside.”

“It’s just so hot,” Scott said as she wiped sweat from her brow.

The staggering temperature difference is due in large part to historical redlining, a federal government-sanctioned effort that began in the 1930s that amplified segregation by denying loans and insurance to potential home buyers in poorer neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color.

While the racist practice was banned in the late 1960s, its effect is still apparent.

Across America’s largest cities, Black homeowners are nearly five times more likely than White families to own homes in these historically redlined communities, according to a study by Redfin. These communities, like where Scott resides in South Atlanta, endure the greatest burdens of our rapidly warming planet, and now tend to be the hottest and poorest areas.

Extreme heat threatens the health and well-being of underserved communities today, while predominantly White neighborhoods reap the cooler benefits of decades of investment.

“I went to get groceries the other day and I thought I was going to pass out.” Scott told CNN. She said she suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, which are underlying health conditions made worse by excessive heat.

Keeping the lights on is hard enough financially for Scott, and so many other disadvantaged community members, let alone having access to reliable air conditioning.

Confronting environmental racism

Some cities, like New Orleans and New York, suffer from the worst urban heat in the nation, according to a recent study by Climate Central. Atlanta, affectionately known as “Hotlanta,” is also particularly hot.
Spelman College, a historically Black college in Atlanta, partnered with a NOAA campaign and other universities to map the hottest and most vulnerable communities. Spelman’s involvement is significant because it is the first time a historically Black college or university has led an initiative such as this, Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, assistant professor of environmental and health sciences at Spelman College told CNN.

“As we think about global challenges like climate change, this is one of the issues that disproportionately impacts Black and other communities of color,” Jelks said. “So, it’s very important that we are at the table.”

Na'Taki Osborne Jelks, assistant professor of environmental and health sciences at Spelman College, discusses Spelman's role in NOAA's Urban Heat Island campaign on September 4, 2021.
Black people are 40% more likely to live in areas with the largest projected increase in heat-related deaths if the planet reaches 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, according to a recent EPA report. This rises to 59% if the planet reaches 4 degrees Celsius.
In August, global scientists said warming had already reached approximately 1.2 degrees Celsius and showed no signs of slowing.
People like Scott are the reason that NOAA’s National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) campaign has been mapping America’s urban heat islands since 2017. This community-led, multi-city program has helped city planners identify and map the hottest neighborhoods of American cities.
The urban heat island effect occurs when a city’s unshaded pavement and buildings absorb heat from the sun during the day and radiate that heat into the surrounding air. This can make even average summer days feel unbearable in dense urban environments, especially to those without access to reliable cooling like Scott.

Jelks and Guanyu Huang, an assistant professor of environmental and health sciences at Spelman College and the local leader of Atlanta’s heat mapping campaign, are both very passionate about this work. They are hopeful that the data will result in changes in the city in which they both reside.

“So, this data will actually help people in Atlanta, especially in the downtown area or intercity area, the people who are actually suffering from heat and also don’t have access to an AC system,” Huang said.

Guanyu Huang is an assistant professor of environmental and health sciences at Spelman College in Atlanta. Huang coordinated and led the Atlanta portion of NOAA's Urban Heat Island campaign on September 4, 2021.

Other cities that have been part of the NOAA heat-mapping campaign have taken the results and made changes, such as planting more trees or adding more parks to areas that are suffering from the worst heat.

The inequities in green space is striking as you traverse Atlanta. Driving through Scott’s neighborhood there are fewer and smaller parks than nearby neighborhoods that are predominantly White, and natural shade from trees is also lacking.

Despite being called “a city in the forest,” where trees are abundant across much of the Atlanta metro, heat inequality remains.

This study is personal

Brionna Findley, a former Atlanta resident and a volunteer for the urban heat island campaign, has experience with the inequity. She has witnessed firsthand her community’s lack of access to air conditioning and shaded green space.

Brionna Findley, a volunteer for NOAA's Urban Heat Island campaign, discusses why this campaign is personal to her and her family.

Findley says she and her family endured countless heat waves in Atlanta when they were there. And it seems to only be getting hotter.

“When I was taking a temperature reading for that specific day, we had higher temperatures when it came to low-tree-cover areas, with more infrastructure and more asphalt on the road,” Findley said. “It was extremely hot, you can feel it. It wasn’t something that was hidden. Like, you felt the temperatures.”

This campaign is personal for Findley after her own grandmother experienced signs of heatstroke.

“It was like one of the hottest days in Georgia. And we went out and we were out walking around the shopping mall center, and we had to go home because you could see, like one side of her face was going down,” Findley explained. “She was having slurred speech. That was very, it was very hard to see that. I was very scared.”

The human body is highly sensitive to heat. Extreme heat on its own can cause heat exhaustion and heatstroke, but it can also worsen underlying conditions like heart and lung problems, obesity and diabetes, among other health issues. These preexisting conditions decrease the body’s ability to adapt to environmental changes like high temperatures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“She’s OK. But we definitely don’t let her go outside that much, especially when it’s hot out there,” Findley said. “Like, Grandma, you need to stay inside today and do some inside activities.”

It could get worse

In general, temperatures across much of the contiguous United States are warming and city environments are experiencing the brunt of the heat due to these urban heat islands. The warming trend is apparent in a new NOAA analysis of average weather.
Annual US temperature compared to the 20th-century average for each U.S. Climate Normals period from 1901-1930 (upper left) to 1991-2020 (lower right). Places where the normal annual temperature was 1.25 degrees or more colder than the 20th-century average are darkest blue; places where normal annual temperature was 1.25 degrees or more warmer than the 20th-century average are darkest red. Maps by NOAA, based on analysis by Jared Rennie, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies/NCEI.

In Atlanta, the city now averages 11 more 90-degree, or hotter, days in the summer, compared to the old 30-year average. Salt Lake City averages 10 more days at 90 degrees or above, and Houston gained nine days.

Once the urban heat islands are mapped, city planners will have more tools to combat environmental inequalities, which experts say will only be exacerbated by the climate crisis.

“If we combine all the data from all the cities together, it will be helpful for all levels of government from state level, federal level to create some climate resilience plan for the entire country. So, that’s what we can do through here,” Huang said. “We can use it to do research, to teach your climate change classes, to tell the people that climate change is actually right there, it’s just next to our neighborhood.”

Potential solutions for a better future

City planners from Houston used the data from the campaign’s 2020 analysis to enact a Climate Action Plan designed to help build resilience against climate disasters, including extreme heat.
Richmond, Virginia, is utilizing the information to transform city-owned land into public green space, providing cooling options to those in need.

“I used to live in New York, and they had cooling centers where people that was homeless could come in in the daytime to keep from being out in the heat, drink water, maybe get a sandwich and a snack. And I ain’t never seen that down here (in Atlanta),” Scott said. “I think they (city planners) should plant trees in hot areas, especially around bus stops. I think they need to open up some kind of center, you know, to help keep people cool.”

While Atlanta has had cooling centers available during extreme heat waves, in the past these centers were not open overnight, when high temperatures can have a particularly severe health impact. The City of Atlanta did not respond to a request for comment about cooling center availability.

Covid-19 has also made unofficial cooling centers, like libraries or malls, harder to access, while they may have been more available to the general public before the pandemic. In some cases, Scott has found these locations are simply closed.

Jelks said that these communities need investments and solutions in a way that doesn’t end up displacing them.

“We can add new trees, but we’ve got to make sure that there are also policy supports to keep the people who are currently suffering from the lack of access to these amenities,” Jelks said. “We want to keep them in place and make sure that they are not displaced by gentrification and moved out of their communities.”

CNN Health’s Jen Christensen contributed to this report.

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