BROOKLINE, Ohio (Reuters) – A spate of tornadoes has pulverized buildings in western Ohio, killing one person, injuring scores of others and triggering a recovery effort on Tuesday in neighborhoods strewn with the wreckage of homes and snapped trees.
An 81-year-old man was killed in Celina, a small city 65 miles (105 km) north of Dayton, after a tornado sent a vehicle crashing into his home, Celina Mayor Jeffrey Hazel said at a news conference.
The deadly twister was one of several tornadoes to strike Ohio on Monday. More than 300 tornadoes have ravaged the U.S. Midwest in the last two weeks, during an unusual onslaught of extreme weather for the region.
The tornado in Celina, which touched down late on Monday, was at least an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with wind speeds of 136 miles per hour to 165 mph (219 to 266 km/h), said Patrick Marsh, warning coordination meteorologist at the federal Storm Prediction Center.
The storm injured seven people in Celina, three of them seriously, Hazel said, and about 40 homes in Celina were seriously damaged or destroyed.
Two tornadoes categorized as EF3 or stronger also struck late on Monday near Dayton, including one just south of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Marsh said. An EF3 is just two scales lower than the most intense tornado possible, an EF5.
‘LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN’
Sue Taulbee, 71, was watching television in her bed in the Dayton suburb of Brookline when she heard the tell-tale sounds of an approaching twister.
“They say it’s like a freight train: That’s what I heard,” she recalled on Tuesday afternoon. She hid at the foot of the bed. Flying debris smashed her window and she was soon trapped as her home collapsed around her.
“It was only a couple of minutes, but it seemed like an hour,” she said as she sat in her yard, surrounded by her scattered possessions. “I just started screaming and my neighbors heard me and said, ‘Sue! Sue! I hear you! We’re coming! We’re coming!’”
They pulled her out through a hole and brought her to a hospital to treat a cut on her head, she said.
After the twisters, Ohio Department of Transportation crews used snow plows to clear highways of debris.
The risk of more tornadoes continued into the night on Tuesday in some Midwest states and the mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and southern New York, Marsh said.
‘THROWN AROUND IN THEIR HOUSES’
Nearly 80 people in and around Dayton went to hospitals with injuries, according to Elizabeth Long, a spokeswoman for the Kettering Health Network.
“We’ve had injuries ranging from lacerations to bumps and bruises from folks being thrown around in their houses due to the storms,” Long said.
The flurry of hundreds of tornadoes that has struck the Midwest in recent days was caused by the interaction of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, a strong jet stream and a weather front that has been locked in place, said Alex Lamers, a meteorologist with the federal Weather Prediction Center.
Nearly 55,000 homes and businesses in Ohio were without power on Tuesday afternoon, according to the PowerOutage.US tracking service, and officials advised people to boil water after water plants and pumps went out of service.
The latest storm follows tornadoes and floods that killed at least three people in Missouri and six people in Oklahoma during the previous week, including two people in El Reno on Saturday.
Unexpected pipeline outages and refinery shutdowns over the past week – in part caused by bad weather in the U.S. Midwest – has roiled cash markets for both crude oil and refined products, traders said on Tuesday.
Rainfall could trigger flash flooding on Tuesday evening in parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, said Brian Hurley, a senior meteorologist at the federal Weather Prediction Center.
Reorting by Kyle Grillot in Brookline, Ohio; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Grant McCool