Strong storms including tornadoes, winds and hail moved through parts of the central U.S. on Wednesday, 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.
CBS News weather producer David Parkinson says the National Weather Service will confirm the exact number of tornadoes and their intensity ratings Thursday but “we likely had around a dozen tornadoes touch down” in Oklahoma, Iowa and Kansas.
Central Oklahoma saw multiple tornadoes, including one that raced through the communities of Cole and Shawnee Wednesday night.
Authorities said at least two people were killed in Cole, a small town in McClain County some 25 miles south of Oklahoma City, and there 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.
A McClain County sheriff’s deputy told CBS Oklahoma City affiliate KWTV that, based on the damage he was seeing in Cole and the area around it, it was reasonable to expect more fatalities.
But the station noted that a 90-year-old grandmother made it through even though a twister hit her home in Shawnee.
A KWTV helicopter lost its windshield as a tornado hit. Caution: The language used by the pilot is salty:
It apparently was able to land.
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 were damaged before the tornado moved off and weakened. The school canceled Thursday and Friday classes.
At the peak of the severe weather, more than 23,000 customers were without electricity throughout Oklahoma, according to poweroutage.us. The number was about 20,000 early Thursday morning.
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 Cole rode out the storm in a manhole and weren’t hurt, KFOR reported.
Storms this spring have spawned tornadoes in the South, Midwest and Northeast, killing dozens of people.