A deadly severe storm system battered a wide swath of the U.S. Tuesday—from the South Plains of Texas to the Great Lakes.
Tornadoes were blamed in the death of one person at a mobile park in Wisconsin and another person at a housing subdivision in Oklahoma.
State of emergency declared in tornado damaged areas https://t.co/BI9gDWml6Q
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In Wisconsin, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told several media that the tornado damaged the Prairie Lakes Estates trailer park north of Chetek. The National Weather Service reported the tornado touched down in the area just after 5:30 p.m.
Helicopter video shows extensive damage at the trailer park, with several homes reduced to rubble.
“It’s a mess,” Fitzgerald told the Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire.
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Fitzgerald described the scene to KMSP-TV as “total devastation” and said first responders could hear people yelling for help when they arrived. He said at least one child was among the injured.
Chetek is about 110 miles northeast of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and about 40 miles north of Eau Claire. The Oklahoma storm struck about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, wrecking much of a subdivision on the southern fringe of Elk City, Oklahoma, about 110 miles west of Oklahoma City.
The storm knocked out telephone service into and out of the city.
But Fire Chaplain Danny Ringer told reporters at the scene late Tuesday that one person was known dead from the twister. He also said the storm destroyed 40 homes and damaged 50 to 75 others severely.
The mayor of the hard hit Wisconsin town, Jeff Martin, told KSTP-TV that numerous emergency vehicles went to the trailer park. He estimated the park had around 50 homes.
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Swank and his family lived in the now-destroyed mobile home eight miles west of Great Bend, Kansas. After riding out the storm, the family is left to search for anything worth saving.
Swank, injured in the storm, says he saw it coming. But with no storm shelter to take cover, his family hunkered down in the front living room of their home.
“Honestly, (I’m) trying to figure out how I’m still alive, you know,” Swank said. “But as crazy as all this is, it’s just weird that we’re still here, when every moment in my body knew I was going to die.”
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Devin Feuerhelm told KMSP-TV that his sister, Lenna Samuelson, lives in the park with her two daughters, Ashley and Brenna.
He said her sister also had her 2-month-old grandson, Nolan, in the home when the storm hit, and they had nowhere to go but the bathtub.
Amazingly, Nolan escaped with just a couple of scratches, he said. Samuelson’s daughters suffered minor injuries, and the mother suffered a gash on her head, but he said all are expected to be fine.
While their home was flattened, the SUV next to it was untouched.
The Wisconsin tornado was part of a huge swath of the Plains and Upper Midwest threatened with severe weather.
The area stretches from the Texas Panhandle through Oklahoma, western Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa into Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Other tornadoes in western Oklahoma and the eastern Texas Panhandle have downed power lines and utility poles, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
By evening, the National Weather Service listed more than 20 reports of tornadoes from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin, although some of those could be multiple reports of the same tornado.
Severe Thunderstorm/Tornado Outbreak is likely today. Rare "High" Tornado Potential has been issued. Stay weather aware! pic.twitter.com/NGnzyfIUzY
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