Dozens trapped in FedEx facility as tornadoes devastate US Midwest

Severe storms kill one person and destroy dozens of homes

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 08 May 2024 10:21 BST
Tornadoes and severe storms rip through the Great Lakes region

Around 50 people were trapped inside a FedEx distribution facility after tornadoes swept Michigan and severe storms caused devastation in the US Midwest.

Tornadoes ripped through parts of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio on Tuesday night, the National Weather Service said, killing at least one person and destroying dozens of homes.

Several parts of Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri were under watch for tornadoes as forecasters warned of looming storms that could stretch over to the next day with the possibility of more twisters and large hail.

Two tornadoes whipped up the skies in the city of Portage near Kalamazoo in southwestern Michigan. They left the city of 50,000 people with heavy damage, littering streets with debris of buildings, downed power lines and trees.

At one point, downed power lines trapped an estimated 50 people inside a FedEx facility, local authorities said as first responders tried to get them out.

FedEx spokesperson Shannon Davis confirmed late on Monday that "all team members are safe and accounted for”.

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Kalamazoo and neighbouring areas which were lashed by strong storms and hail.

Debris is seen from a damaged FedEx facility after a tornado in Portage, Michigan, on Tuesday
Debris is seen from a damaged FedEx facility after a tornado in Portage, Michigan, on Tuesday (AP)

More than 18,000 people were left without power across Kalamazoo county, PowerOutages said.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Centre documented over 12 tornado sightings spanning from Monday evening to early Tuesday across the central region of the US.

At least eight tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma and there were sightings in Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Tennessee as well.

The storms are expected to continue for a third day with cities in Ohio and Kentucky, including Columbus, Cincinnati and Louisville, expected to face the risk of worsening weather conditions until Wednesday.

A tornado in Oklahoma levelled a third of a small city of 1,000 people and caused multiple injuries. Forecasters had warned of "a large and life-threatening tornado" that was headed toward Barnsdall and the nearby town of Bartlesville.

Damage from powerful storms in Barnsdall on Tuesday
Damage from powerful storms in Barnsdall on Tuesday (AP)

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said that up to 40 homes in the town had been damaged.

One person was killed in Barnsdall and another was missing after Monday’s twister, mayor Johnny Kelley said. Search and rescue teams launched a secondary search Tuesday morning for the missing man.

"The toughest thing on me as the mayor is this is a small community," Mr Kelley said. "I know 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the people in this town."

“The devastation is pretty substantial.”

A family sift through and recover lost items after their home was struck by a tornado
A family sift through and recover lost items after their home was struck by a tornado (Getty)

Aerial footage showed dozens of homes reduced to piles of rubble and some with their roofs ripped off.

A twister tossed vehicles, damaged trees and downed power lines across the down while a 160-acre wax manufacturing facility suffered heavy damage.

Mr Kelly said 25 people, including children, were rescued from collapsed and damaged buildings.

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