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Suspected tornadoes kill at least 3 in Ohio as severe storms tear through central U.S.

Greg McDougle walks near debris on Friday, following a severe storm in Lakeview, Ohio.
Joshua A. Bickel
/
AP
Greg McDougle walks near debris on Friday, following a severe storm in Lakeview, Ohio.

Updated March 15, 2024 at 11:00 AM ET

LAKEVIEW, Ohio — Tornadoes tore through several central U.S. states, flattening homes and trailers in an RV park and killing at least three people, with more bodies likely to be discovered, authorities said Friday.

Thursday night's storms left trails of destruction and injuries or deaths in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas. Tornadoes were also suspected in Illinois and Missouri.

It appeared the worst hit was the Indian Lake area in Ohio's Logan County, northwest of Columbus. At least three people died there, and Sheriff Randy Dodds told NBC's "Today" show that cadaver dogs would search the debris Friday.

"I do anticipate finding additional deceased persons, unfortunately, today," Dodds said.

The tornado devastated the villages of Lakeview and Russells Point, county spokesperson Sheri Timmers said. There were likely "lots of injuries," Timmers said.

The storm sheared off the tops of homes and damaged a campground and laundromat, leaving twisted metal wrapped in the tops of trees. Snowplows cleared debris from roads.

"There's places burning," said Amber Fagan, president of the Indian Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. "There's power lines through people's windows."

Many of the homes in the area are used as summer cottages by people who come for fishing and boating.

Blaine Schmidt, 34, was inside his house in Lakeview and heard tornado sirens moments before the storm hit his house. He took shelter in his bathtub, using the shower curtain to protect him from broken glass along with his roommate, Greg McDougle, 60.

"I'm lucky to be alive," Schmidt said.

Debris scatters the ground on Friday near damaged homes following a severe storm in Lakeview, Ohio.
Joshua A. Bickel / AP
/
AP
Debris scatters the ground on Friday near damaged homes following a severe storm in Lakeview, Ohio.

In Indiana, about 40 people were injured by a suspected tornado in Winchester, officials said. There were no known fatalities as of Friday morning.

"I'm shaken; it's overwhelming," said Bob McCoy, mayor of the town of 4,700 about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Indianapolis. "I heard what sounded like a train, and then I started hearing sirens."

He and his wife were hunkered in a closet during the twister, which hit around 8 p.m.

"I've never heard that sound before; I don't want to hear it again," McCoy said.

The Winchester storm damaged a Walmart store and a Taco Bell restaurant, Randolph County Sheriff Art Moystner told FOX59/CBS4.

The town's school district was closed Friday, according to a Facebook post. A high school had electricity and was open for people who "need somewhere warm and dry."

West of Winchester, emergency management officials said initial assessments suggested as many as half the structures in the town of Selma, population 750, were damaged by a possible tornado. Only minor injuries were reported, the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency said in a news release.

"Severe weather has impacted Hoosiers all across the state, and we have emergency response personnel in the impacted areas," Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb posted on Facebook Thursday night.

Another suspected tornado damaged homes and toppled trees in Huron County in northern Ohio, officials said, but no deaths or injuries were reported. Storms also damaged homes and trailers in the Ohio River communities of Hanover and Lamb in Indiana.

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, of the Indiana State Police, said a suspected tornado struck Jefferson County, on the Ohio River north of Louisville, Kentucky, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines.

He posted photos on X showing one home with its roof torn off and another missing roof shingles, as well as an image of a baseball-sized hailstone.

In Kentucky, Trimble County Emergency Management Director Andrew Stark told the Courier Journal of Louisville that the storms damaged at least 50 structures, including homes.

Dozens of structures were damaged in the Kentucky town of Milton, Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement.

In Arkansas, a probable tornado struck the retirement community of Hot Springs Village, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Little Rock, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Erik Green.

Baseball-sized hail also fell and some buildings were destroyed, but there were no reports of fatalities or injuries, Green said.

The Arkansas storms hit nearly one year after a tornado traveled just over 30 miles in the Little Rock area, injuring more than 50 people and killing one person.

There were reports of tornadoes in Jefferson County, Missouri, and Monroe County, Illinois. Large pieces of hail also was reported in the St. Louis area.

More severe weather was forecast Friday for parts of the South, with the possibility of damaging winds and isolated tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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