BROOKVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A swarm of apparent tornadoes so tightly packed that one crossed the path carved by another tore across Indiana and Ohio overnight, smashing homes and blowing out windows. One person was killed and dozens were injured.
The storms were among 52 twisters that forecasters said may have touched down Monday across eight states stretching eastward from Idaho and Colorado.
The winds knocked homes off their foundations, toppled trees and hurled so much debris that it could be seen on radar, and highway crews had to use snowplows to clear an interstate.
Some of the heaviest damage was reported just outside Dayton, Ohio.
“I just got down on all fours and covered my head with my hands,” said Francis Dutmers, who with his wife headed for the basement of their home in Vandalia, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) outside Dayton, when the storm hit with a “very loud roar” Monday night. The winds blew out windows around his house, filled rooms with debris and took down most of his trees.
In Celina, Ohio, 81-year-old Melvin Dale Hannah was killed when winds blew a parked car into his house, Mayor Jeffrey Hazel said Tuesday.
“There’s areas that truly look like a war zone,” Hazel said.
Storm reports posted online by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center showed that 14 suspected tornadoes touched down in Indiana, 10 in Colorado and nine in Ohio. Six suspected tornadoes were reported in Iowa, five in Nebraska, four in Illinois, three in Minnesota and one in Idaho.
Thunderstorms that spun off the Colorado tornadoes dropped hail as large as tennis balls, with pea-size hail reported in the Denver area.
A large tornado struck near Trotwood, Ohio, eight miles (12 kilometers) from Dayton, and Mayor Mary McDonald reported “catastrophic damage” in the community of 24,500 people. Several apartment buildings were damaged or destroyed, including one complex where the entire roof was torn away, and at least three dozen people were treated at emergency rooms for cuts, bumps and bruises.
The mayor said five busloads of displaced residents were taken to a church that opened as a shelter.
Just before midnight, about 40 minutes after that tornado cut through, the weather service tweeted that another one was crossing its path, churning up enough debris to be visible on radar.
In Brookville, west of Dayton, the storm tore roofs off schools, destroyed a barn and heavily damaged houses.
In Dayton, only a few minor injuries were reported. Dayton Fire Chief Jeffrey Payne called that “pretty miraculous,” attributing the good news to people heeding early warnings about the storm. Residents said sirens started going off around 10:30 p.m. ahead of the storm.
Mayor Nan Whaley urged people to check on their neighbors, especially those who are housebound. A boil-water advisory was issued after the storms knocked out power to Dayton’s pump stations, and Dayton Power & Light said 64,000 customers were without electricity.
Many roads in the Dayton area were impassable. A high school gymnasium in Dayton was designated an emergency shelter until authorities realized it was unusable.
In Indiana, at least 75 homes were damaged in Pendleton and nearby Huntsville, said Madison County Emergency Management spokesman Todd Harmeson. No serious injuries were reported.
Residents in Pendleton, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northeast of Indianapolis, were urged to stay in their homes Tuesday morning because of downed trees, power lines and utility poles.
“People are getting antsy. I know they want to get outdoors, and I know they want to see what’s going on in the neighborhood, but we still have power lines down, we still have hazards out there,” Harmeson said.
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