COLE, Okla. (AP) — Strong storms with tornadoes and hail killed at least three people in the central U.S., injuring others, destroying homes and leaving thousands without power Thursday.
Two deaths were in the small town of Cole, 25 miles (41 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City, and a third person who was injured by the tornado has died, but it was not clear where the person was injured, said Deputy Sheriff Scott Gibbons of McClain County, Oklahoma.
“There are definitely dozens of various injuries, from minor all the way up to fatalities,” Gibbons said.
Details of the deaths and names of the victims have not been released.
The twister also devastated Shawnee, on the eastern outskirts of Oklahoma City, officials said.
“There’s a lot of damage out here,” state Department of Emergency Management Benny Fulkerson said from Shawnee following a visit by Gov. Kevin Stitt. Thursday’s focus was on damage assessment after spending the night looking for victims and survivors of the storm.
Fulkerson said the number of injuries and homes and buildings damaged was not known.
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.
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.
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.
More storms with a chance of producing tornadoes were forecast for Thursday night from Texas to Wisconsin by the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
“A mix of supercells and storm clusters is expected” with possible tornadoes across eastern Texas before the storm moves northward across Arkansas and into Missouri. “Large hail, and possibly a tornado or two” could occur from eastern Missouri, across Illinois into Wisconsin, according to the prediction center.
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.