Strong storms with tornadoes and hail killed at least two people in the central U.S., injuring others, destroying homes and leaving thousands without power. More severe storms were predicted for Thursday night.
The National Weather Service began issuing tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings Wednesday evening in Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa, with forecasters warning people to find shelter.
Central Oklahoma saw tornadoes, including one that raced through the communities of Shawnee and Cole.
At least two people were killed in the small town of Cole in McClain County, about41 kilometres south of Oklahoma City, authorities said. There also were injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to some requiring hospitalization, although the numbers weren’t immediately clear as hundreds of people fanned out in search operations.
“It is reasonable to expect possibly more based on the damage that we’ve seen,” McClain County Deputy Sheriff Scott Gibbons said on NBC’s Today Show of the potential for additional deaths to be confirmed.
Power lines also were torn down, trees toppled, and homes and other buildings badly damaged or destroyed. Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee and an airport were damaged before the tornado moved away and weakened.
“We do not have a number of homes or businesses damaged, but we do know that significant damage occurred,” Benny Fulkerson, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said in a statement late Wednesday.
At the peak of the severe weather, more than 23,000 customers were without electricity throughout Oklahoma, according to PowerOutage.us.
KFOR-TV reported that residents south of Oklahoma City said they were trapped in their underground shelters, mailboxes were blown away, and emergency crews used GPS to find addresses, according to the McClain County sheriff.
Two people in the town of Cole rode out the storm in a manhole and were not hurt, the television station reported.
An additional round of tornado-producing storms was expected Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
“Very large hail is likely, and significant severe wind gusts along with a few tornadoes will be possible” in northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and parts of Missouri and Nebraska, according to the centre.
The area currently at greatest risk includes about 3 1/2 million people and the cities of Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman and Edmond, Oklahoma, and Omaha, Nebraska.
Storms this spring have spawned tornadoes in the South, Midwest and Northeast, killing dozens of people.
An April 1 storm produced tornadoes that killed at least 32 people from Arkansas to Delaware, and days later a tornado left five dead in Missouri. At least 26 died in Mississippi and Alabama when tornadoes during late March storm carved a path of destruction through the Deep South.
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