Severe storms – with reports of strong tornadoes – leave at least 2 dead and destroy

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CNN
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Strong storms that likely included tornadoes swept through eastern Indiana and western Ohio on Thursday evening, leaving at least two people dead, destroying parts of some towns, knocking out power for thousands, and prompting search and rescue efforts in at least one city, officials said.

A suspected tornado that hit the community of Indian Lake in western Ohio killed two people, Logan County Sheriff Randall Dodds told CNN affiliate WSYX.

Injuries were also reported in the two states, including at least 38 people in Indiana and more than 20 in Ohio, officials said while cautioning the scope of the damage and injuries wouldn’t be known for hours.

The storms were part of a sprawling system that put more than 45 million people from Texas to western Pennsylvania under threat of severe storms Thursday into early Friday. As of Thursday night, two tornado reports had been made in Indiana and five in Ohio, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

More than 5,000 homes and businesses in Indiana and more than 20,000 in Ohio were without power early Friday, according to PowerOutage.us.

In Winchester, Indiana, state police were helping with search and rescue efforts after a tornado likely struck the area, and temporary shelters have been set up for residents, agency spokesperson Sgt. Scott Keegan said on social media.

The suspected tornado injured more than three dozen people in Winchester, but there were no deaths reported as of Friday morning, according to Randolph County emergency officials.

State police Superintendent Doug Carter described the storm in Winchester as a “terrible, terrible event.”

Some homes and other buildings in Winchester were destroyed, he said. Authorities must now scour damaged buildings for any sign of people who may be missing, Carter said. “Every single one of these facilities are going to have to be checked, especially those that have completely collapsed,” he said in a news conference.

Up to half of the buildings in Selma, Indiana – a town of about 700 people near Winchester – appear damaged in the wake of a severe thunderstorm that may have brought a tornado, the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency said.

Survey teams from the National Weather Service will be in the Winchester and Selma areas Friday to assess the damage, the service said.

Strong tornadoes capable of causing considerable damage also were believed to have hit parts of western Ohio’s Auglaize and Logan counties, the Storm Prediction Center said.

Radar signals in the counties indicated that debris was being lofted as high as 15,000 feet – a sign of a strong tornado, according to the weather service in Wilmington, Ohio. This prompted the service to issue a tornado warning with a “considerable threat” label – the second highest level of tornado warning.

Approximately 19 people were treated Thursday night for weather-related injuries in the Mary Rutan Health facility in Logan County, a spokesperson for the facility said.

In addition to Indian Lake, the areas of Lakeview and Russells Point in Logan County were hard hit by the storm, said David Crissman, mayor of the county seat, Bellefontaine.

Parts of Logan County suffered “a significant amount of damage,” the county emergency management agency said. The agency did not have any information on injuries or damages, and said it was being inundated with calls and working to organize its response.

“I have a report of a building collapse. There’s people trapped. There are some injuries from the different campgrounds and houses up around the lake,” Crissman said. A trailer park in the county’s northwest corner also was destroyed, he said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation used snowplows to move debris in Logan County, spokesperson Matt Bruning told CNN. Several crews across the state were out dealing with damage Friday night, he said.

In Lakeview, video shared by Alena Roberts appeared to show damaged buildings along a road. She was heading home from her second-grader’s concert at a school when the weather worsened, she said.

“It was terrifying. … Tornado sirens were going off,” she said. After she got home, she could tell the worst portion of the storm hit “because the wind and rain was so loud – I’ve never heard of that loud before.”

A tornado also may have struck part Mercer County in west-central Ohio, an official there said. The impacted area is mostly farmland, and at least one home and one hog barn were damaged, Mike Robbins, the county emergency management director, told CNN by phone. To the east of that area, outside the Mercer County seat of Celina, a storm damaged several trailer homes and three people sustained minor injuries, Robbins said.

The tornado reports in Indiana and Ohio came as a system of strong thunderstorms swept across parts of the central and eastern US on Thursday. An area from Texas to Ohio was under a Level 2 of 5 risk Thursday for severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes and damaging wind gusts, while a higher Level 3 of 5 risk centered on parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

On Friday, the severe weather threat shifts to the US Southeast, where more than 30 million people from Texas to South Carolina could see severe storms. That could include large hail, damaging wind gusts, heavy rainfall and a few tornadoes.

Parts of Texas, Alabama and Mississippi could see the strongest chance for severe weather on Friday.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

CNN’s Andy Rose, Taylor Ward, Raja Razek, Andy Rose, Jamiel Lynch and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.



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