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Storms pummel central U.S., as tornadoes kill at least 2

Wed., May 17, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

A German shepherd dog guards what remains of what appears to be its owner’s home Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in a trailer park that was devastated by a tornado Tuesday during powerful spring storms that battered an area from the South Plains of Texas to the Great Lakes. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii / Star Tribune via AP)
A German shepherd dog guards what remains of what appears to be its owner’s home Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in a trailer park that was devastated by a tornado Tuesday during powerful spring storms that battered an area from the South Plains of Texas to the Great Lakes. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii / Star Tribune via AP)

ELK CITY, Okla. – Storms whipped through a wide swath of the nation’s midsection, giving rise to tornadoes that flattened a Wisconsin mobile home park and an Oklahoma subdivision and killing at least two people and injuring dozens of others.

The storms hit Wisconsin late Tuesday afternoon and into the evening, leveling the Prairie Lake Estate Mobile Park near Chetek, which is about 110 miles northeast of Minneapolis.

Mark Tyson said he and his wife, Robin, were huddled behind a living room chair as the storm hit Tuesday evening when an entire wall of their mobile home suddenly came flying at them.

“I thought we were done,” said Tyson. Shards of glass were flying at them like bullets, Tyson told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

“When your house comes apart like that, there’s no place to go. I thought this is it.”

A 46-year-old man was killed at the trailer park and at least 25 other people were injured, according to the Barron County Sheriff’s Department. Aerial footage showed a wide path of leveled mobile homes and debris.

Several poultry barns at a turkey processing plant across the street were badly damaged, and turkeys could be seen wandering in the debris.

Meteorologists said eight suspected tornadoes are believed to have touched down in western Oklahoma, killing a man and destroying at least 40 homes.

National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Smith said two supercells formed in the Texas Panhandle on Tuesday and then moved into Oklahoma. He said the most destructive tornado appears to have remained on the ground for five to 10 miles near Elk City, which is about 110 miles west of Oklahoma City.

Danny Ringer, the Elk City Fire Department chaplain, said that tornado killed 53-year-old Bo Mikles. Authorities said it appears he was fleeing his home when his vehicle was thrown several hundred feet.

The weather service said it received reports of more than two dozen tornado sightings Tuesday night across the five states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin. There were also many reports of large hail and strong winds.

In eastern Nebraska, winds damaged homes, farms and businesses and left thousands of people without electricity. Gusts of 85 mph were recorded at the weather service’s office in Valley, west of Omaha. Lightning blew siding and bricks off a home in Lincoln and a funnel cloud was spotted about 40 miles southwest of the city, near Exeter, but no damage was reported.

In Iowa, the storms damaged homes and other buildings and knocked down trees, limbs and power poles, leaving thousands of people without power. The Iowa State Patrol said the strong winds knocked over some semitrailers on Interstate 29, which runs north-south along the Missouri River.

The fire department lost power in Missouri Valley, Iowa, which is about 20 miles north of Omaha. Fallen power lines and lightning caused fires there, and MidAmerican Energy said Wednesday that several thousand customers were without power.