BROOKLINE, Ohio (Reuters) – A spate of tornadoes pulverized buildings in western Ohio early on Tuesday, killing one person, injuring scores of others and requiring emergency officials to send out snowplows to clear debris from a major highway, officials and media reports said.
At least one tornado hit Dayton and at least two touched down near the city, including one near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, just east of the city, media reports said, part of a series of storms that have ravaged the U.S. Midwest in recent days.
There was a risk of more tornadoes and hailstorms from Tuesday afternoon into the night in Kansas and other Midwest states, while residents in Arkansas and Oklahoma braced for more record-breaking floods, the National Weather Service said.
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 get a laceration on her head treated, she said.
At least one of the tornadoes reached wind speeds of 140 miles per hour (230 km per hour), the National Weather Service said.
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 on Tuesday. Another seven people were injured in the storm, three of them seriously, he said. About 40 homes in Celina were seriously damaged or destroyed, Hazel said.
At least 45 people in and around Dayton went to hospitals with injuries, most of them minor, according to Elizabeth Long, a spokeswoman for the Kettering Health Network.
“We’ve had injuries ranging form lacerations to bumps and bruises from folks being thrown around in their houses due to the storms,” she said.
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.
More than 65,000 homes and businesses in Ohio were left without power on Monday morning, according to the PowerOutage.US tracking service, and officials advised people to boil water after water plants and pumps went out of service.
Flooded areas of Arkansas and Oklahoma were bracing for more rain that will feed the already swollen Arkansas River, forecasters said on Tuesday. Up to 19 inches (48 cm) of rain have fallen so far in parts of Oklahoma over the month of May, the NWS said, with more on the way.
Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri all have activated National Guard units to respond to the storms.
Reorting by Kyle Grillot in Brookline, Ohio; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, and Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Trott and James Dalgleish