Overnight tornadoes and storms leave heavy destruction in Nebraska and Iowa

File image of a tornado

Lorraine Matti | Reuters

A preliminary 79 tornadoes were reported Friday across six states, most occurring in Nebraska and Iowa, where homes were leveled and buildings collapsed.

Omaha, Nebraska, Mayor Jean Stothert said in a Facebook post early Saturday that no deaths had been reported and there were a few minor injuries after a destructive tornado moved through rural farmland before hitting the suburbs.

Omaha police Lt. Neal Bonacci said hundreds of homes were damaged, mostly in the Elkhorn area in the western part of the city.

“You definitely see the path of the tornado,” Bonacci said.

Police and firefighters went door-to-door to help residents and to search areas where people could be trapped, Omaha Fire Chief Kathy Bossman said.

“We’ll be looking throughout properties in debris piles, we’ll be looking in basements, trying to find any victims and make sure everybody is rescued who needs assistance,” Bossman said.

Pat Woods, who lives in Elkhorn, told The Associated Press, that he and his wife took shelter but could hear the tornado “coming through.”

“When we came up, our fence was gone and we looked to the northwest and the whole neighborhood’s gone,” he said.

His wife, Kim Woods, said the neighborhood to the north of them was “pretty flattened.”

Two women help carry a friend’s belongings out of their damaged home after a tornado passed through the area in Bennington, Neb., on Friday.Josh Funk / AP

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds declared a disaster emergency for Pottawattamie County after video posted on social media showed parts of Minden, about 30 miles northeast of Omaha, Nebraska, completely flattened.

Jeff Theulen, the chief deputy of the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, said at a Friday evening news conference that 40 or 50 homes were “completely destroyed.” There have been two reports of injuries, one “fairly severe but not life-threatening,” he told reporters.

“It’s a very dangerous right now. We’ve shut off entrance to the city except for the people that live here,” he said, noting that “50% of the town is damaged badly and then there’s light damage everywhere else.”

In nearby Shelby County about 40 homes were damaged, said county emergency coordinator Alex Londo. Officials were assessing the destruction, he said, noting there have been no reports of fatalities.

There were also more than 30 damaging wind reports and 60 hail reports Friday afternoon and overnight. National Weather Service offices are surveying the damage ahead of more severe weather expected Saturday.

More than 30 million people in Oklahoma City; Dallas; Wichita, Kansas; Omaha; Milwaukee; and Madison, Wisconsin, are in the path of severe weather.

Northwestern Texas and western Oklahoma are under tornado watches for Saturday, according to The National Weather Service.

“Numerous strong to severe thunderstorms are expected over parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and North Texas today into tonight,” the agency’s Storm Prediction Center said in a Facebook post. “Strong, potentially long-track tornadoes, very large hail, and damaging winds are likely.”

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