At least 4 dead as tornadoes hit multiple states

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Tornadoes hit multiple states over the weekend, with as many as 27 ripping through Oklahoma. At least four people have died in the state since late Saturday night. 

A 4-month-old baby was among the deceased, according to KOCO News 5, which reported that three others were also found dead. 

On Friday, a series of tornadoes wreaked havoc across Nebraska and Iowa, resulting in widespread property damage and several injuries but no reported fatalities as of early Sunday. The most destructive tornado struck suburban Omaha, Nebraska, damaging hundreds of homes as it tore through farmland and into residential neighborhoods.

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Among the areas hit by tornadoes was Lancaster County, Nebraska, where three people were injured after a tornado caused an industrial building to collapse, The Associated Press reported. There were about 70 people inside the building at the time, but authorities reported that everyone was evacuated safely, and the injuries were not life-threatening.

Lt. Neal Bonacci of the Omaha police noted that hundreds of homes were damaged in the Elkhorn area, on the western edge of Omaha. Emergency response teams were dispatched to the hardest-hit neighborhoods, going door-to-door to assist residents, the newswire said.

Fire Chief Kathy Bossman explained that the teams had a plan to search for anyone who might be trapped in debris or basements. “They’re going to be putting together a strategic plan for a detailed search of the area, starting with the properties with most damage,” Bossman was quoted as saying. “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.”

Several large homes were destroyed or heavily damaged in Elkhorn, with one house completely leveled. Pat Woods, a local resident, described the tornado’s impact: “We watched it touch down about 200 yards over there and then we took shelter. We could hear it coming through. When we came up our fence was gone and we looked to the northwest and the whole neighborhood’s gone.”

Additional damage was reported in other areas. A woman in Blair, a city north of Omaha, was taken from a damaged home on a stretcher. The number of injuries was relatively low, with only two people requiring treatment for minor injuries, according to Bonacci.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer credited the tornado warnings with preventing further casualties. The warnings saved lives, he said, explaining that due to the warnings, schools had students shelter in place as the tornadoes approached. He added that it took several hours for buses to transport children home after the storms passed.

Becky Kern, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Omaha office, mentioned that multiple teams would be sent to determine the strength of the tornadoes and how many had occurred. The process could take up to two weeks as the teams examine damaged sites.

In addition to the damage in Omaha, a tornado hit the eastern edge of the city, passing through parts of Eppley Airfield. Although the airport was temporarily closed to assess the damage, it soon reopened. Steve McCoy, Chief Strategy Officer of the Omaha Airport Authority, said the terminal was not damaged, but people sought shelter until the tornado passed.

Lancaster County had a tipped-over train near Waverly, and three people were injured when the industrial building collapsed. Power outages affected nearly 10,000 customers in Omaha due to storm-related damage.

Meanwhile, Fox Weather reported that the severe weather threat extended beyond Nebraska and Iowa, with tornado watches issued for parts of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Forecasters warned that large hail and strong wind gusts were possible, adding that flash flooding posed significant risks, particularly in parts of east-central Oklahoma, where 5-10 inches of rain were expected through Sunday.

The Omaha Public Power District reported that nearly 10,000 customers were without power in the Omaha area. This added to the broader threat of severe weather, with further tornadoes expected over the weekend across the Mississippi Valley, with additional tornado watches and warnings issued.

In Omaha, police and fire crews worked overnight to complete a second search of homes and check unsafe structures. Authorities noted that the warnings given to residents in advance helped save lives, and schools had students shelter in place until the storm passed. Due to the severe weather threat, the National Weather Service sent out multiple teams to assess the damage and evaluate the strength of the tornadoes. This process could take up to two weeks as they pieced together the extent of the destruction.

Fox Weather said the severe weather threat covered over 50 million people, stretching over 1,500 miles from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. While tornadoes and damaging winds were significant risks, flash flooding was also a major concern, particularly in Oklahoma. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center issued a Level 4 flash flood risk for parts of Oklahoma, where rainfall could exceed 10 inches in 24 hours.

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