OMAHA, Neb. – Tornadoes were spotted across the Midwest and Plains on Saturday as an outbreak of unusually strong weather seized the region, and forecasters sternly warned that “life-threatening” weather could intensify overnight.
Storms were reported in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Emergency officials in Iowa said a large part of Thurman in the western part of the state was destroyed but no one was injured. A hospital in Creston, southwest of Des Moines, was damaged but patients and staff were not hurt.
And a reported tornado in Wichita, Kan., caused widespread power outages and other damage, including to housing and at an Air Force base.
National Weather Service forecasters issued sobering outlooks that the worst of the weather would hit around nightfall, predicting that conditions were right for exceptionally strong tornadoes.
While there were no fatalities as of Saturday evening, storms were erupting faster than spotters could tally them. The danger began when tornado sirens sounded in Oklahoma City around dawn.
One of the suspected tornadoes in central Oklahoma touched down near the small town of Piedmont and followed a similar path to the one last May that killed several people. Later in the day, several tornadoes were reported to have touched down in the northeast part of the state. Aside from damage to a camper, the chaos was minor.
More than 5,000 people who had gathered in Woods County, Okla., for a rattlesnake hunt scattered when a tornado touched down, said county emergency management director Steve Foster.
In Iowa, Thurman – a town of about 250 people – was severely damaged by a possible tornado. Fremont County Emergency Management Director Mike Crecelius said that about 75 percent of the town was destroyed, but there were no injuries or deaths.
Two possible tornadoes were reported in Nebraska near the Kansas border, and as many as 10 others were reported in largely rural parts of western and central Kansas, including one north of Dodge City that was said to be on the ground for a half-hour, weather officials said.
In Kansas, a suspected tornado narrowly avoided Salina, meteorologists said.
Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for Kansas Division of Emergency Management, said there were reports of damage to housing in the southeast part of Wichita as well as at McConnell Air Force Base and Spirit AeroSystems.