Central U.S. hit by rare winter tornadoes

Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:32pm EST

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(Reuters) - Storms in four central states on Tuesday brought reports of at least 10 tornadoes touching down, a rare event for this time of winter, including two in the Louisville, Kentucky metropolitan area, the National Weather Service said.

"That's pretty unusual for mid-January," said Tom Reaugh, a weather service meteorologist based in Louisville.

Another tornado touched down south of Nashville, Tennessee, and two others were reported in Mississippi along with reports of damage from high winds and hail, meteorologists said.

A cold front combined with a warm and humid air mass contributed to the tornadoes, but those conditions that dissipated by Wednesday, said Dan Pydynowski, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.com, whose company provides forecasting services.

Tornadoes are rare, but not unheard of, this time of year in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, and more common farther south.

In Indiana and Kentucky, on-site surveys found much of the damage was downed trees and power lines, fences blown over and damages to roofs and siding, Reaugh said.

Near Louisville, a tornado snapped trees, tore siding and shingles from multiple homes and ripped the door off a detached garage and shifted its roof by a foot, the weather service said.

To the north in Clark County, Indiana, a twister touched down in a Wal-Mart parking lot, flipped a vehicle on nearby Interstate 65, knocked down several fences in a neighborhood and took the roof off a barn, the weather service said.

At Madison Municipal Airport in southeast Indiana, a twister also damaged a Beechcraft King Air when it moved the small plane and broke its nose gear, the Weather Service said.

In Mississippi, a tornado struck a home in south Marion County, and a person who was inside suffered a possible broken arm.

A small tornado touched down just south of Nashville, Tennessee, Tuesday afternoon as a fast-moving front brought thunderstorms and high winds that swept across the state downing a few trees and power lines, meteorologists said.

"Apparently one home had some major roof damage and there were some trees uprooted and an RV was blown over," said Jim Moser, a weather service meteorologist from Nashville.

Moser said tornadoes were unusual in January, but "they are not unheard of."

(Reporting by David Bailey, Tim Ghianni and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Greg McCune)

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