COLE, Okla. (AP) — Strong storms including tornadoes, winds and hail moved through parts of the central U.S., killing at least two people, causing injuries, destroying homes and leaving thousands without power.
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.
Central Oklahoma saw multiple tornadoes, including one that raced through the communities of Shawnee and Cole on Wednesday night.
Authorities said at least two people were killed in the small town of Cole in McClain County, about 25 miles (41 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City. There also were injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to some requiring hospitalization, although the numbers weren’t immediately clear as hundreds of people fanned out in search operations.
“It is reasonable to expect possibly more based on the damage that we’ve seen,” Deputy Sheriff Scott Gibbons of the McClain County sheriff’s department told NBC’s “Today” show of the potential for additional deaths to be confirmed.
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 received damage before the tornado moved off and weakened.
“We do not have a number of homes or businesses damaged, but we do know that significant damage occurred,” Benny Fulkerson, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said in a statement late Wednesday.
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 reported being trapped in their shelters underground, 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.
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.