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Tornadoes tear through parts of U.S. for 12th straight day

A storm tore through the Kansas City area Tuesday, spawning tornadoes that downed trees and power lines, damaged homes and injured at least a dozen people. The 12th straight day of at least eight tornadoes reported to the U.S. National Weather Service hasn't happened since 1980.

Tuesday's damage was recorded over an unusually large swathe, from Kansas to Pennsylvania

Joe Armison looks over damage to his home after a tornado struck the outskirts of Eudora, Kan., on Tuesday. (Colin E. Braley/The Associated Press)

A storm tore through the Kansas City area, spawning tornadoes that downed trees and power lines, damaged homes and injured at least a dozen people in the severe weather that has seen tornado warnings as far east as New York City.

Parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey also were under tornado warnings hours after a swarm of tightly packed twisters swept through Indiana and Ohio overnight, smashing homes, blowing out windows and ending the school year early for some students because of damage to buildings. One person was killed and at least 130 were injured.

The storms in Kansas City on Tuesday came on the 12th straight day that at least eight tornadoes were reported to the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS).

After several quiet years, the past couple of weeks have seen an explosion of tornado activity with no end to the pattern in sight.

A large and dangerous tornado touched down on the western edge of Kansas City, Kan., late Tuesday, the NWS office reported. At least a dozen people were admitted to the hospital in Lawrence, about 65 kilometres west of downtown Kansas City, Mo., and home to the University of Kansas, hospital spokesperson Janice Early said.

Damage also was reported in the towns of Bonner Springs, Linwood and Pleasant Grove in Kansas.

But the Kansas City metropolitan area of about 2.1 million people appeared to have been spared the direct hit that was feared earlier in the evening when the weather service announced a tornado emergency.

Mark Duffin, 48, learned from his wife and a television report that the large tornado was headed toward his home in Linwood, about 50 km west of Kansas City.

The next thing he knew, the walls of his house were coming down.

Duffin told the Kansas City Star that he grabbed a mattress, followed his 13-year-old to the basement and protected the two of them with the mattress as the home crashed down around them.

"I'm just glad I found my two dogs alive," he said. "Wife's alive, family's alive, I'm alive. So, that's it."

The severe weather wasn't limited to the Midwest. Tornadoes were confirmed in eastern Pennsylvania and the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for parts of New York City and northern New Jersey.

Nick Sweeney, left, and his wife Tara watch the water level from flooding on their 4th Street home in Portage des Sioux, Mo., on Tuesday. (The Associated Press)

The winds peeled away roofs — leaving homes looking like giant dollhouses — knocked houses off their foundations, toppled trees, brought down power lines and churned up so much debris that it was visible on radar. Highway crews had to use snowplows to clear an Ohio interstate.

Some of the heaviest damage was reported just outside Dayton, Ohio.

"I just got down on all fours and covered my head with my hands," said Francis Dutmers, who with his wife headed for the basement of their home in Vandalia, about 16 kilometres outside Dayton, when the storm hit with a "very loud roar" Monday night. The winds blew out windows around his house, filled rooms with debris and took down most of his trees.

Hospitals reported as many as 130 people were injured after the tornadoes pounded communities in and around Dayton.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in three hard-hit counties, allowing the state to suspend normal purchasing procedures and quickly provide supplies like water and generators.

Monday marked the record-tying 11th straight day with at least eight tornadoes in the U.S., said Patrick Marsh, a Storm Prediction Center meteorologist. The last such stretch was in 1980. The weather service website showed at least 27 reports of tornadoes on Tuesday, most in Kansas and Missouri but also in Pennsylvania and Illinois.

A crumpled home lies in northwest Celina, Ohio, on Tuesday following a tornado the previous night. After Monday’s tornadoes, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in the three counties with the most damage. (Dan Melograna/Daily Standard via AP)

Outbreaks of 50 or more tornadoes are not uncommon, having happened 63 times in U.S. history, with three instances of more than 100 twisters, Marsh said. But Monday's swarm was unusual because it happened over a particularly wide geographic area and came amid an especially active stretch, he said.

As for why it's happening, Marsh said high pressure over the Southeast and an unusually cold trough over the Rockies are forcing warm, moist air into the central U.S., triggering repeated severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. And neither system is showing signs of moving, he said.

Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather such as storms, droughts, floods and fires, but without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.

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