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Storms batter Midwest one day after tornado leaves at least 1 dead in Oklahoma

Tornado activity causes devastation in Midwest
More tornado activity causes devastation in Midwest 02:41

Severe storms battered the Midwest on Tuesday, unleashing a curtain of heavy rain, gusty winds and tornadoes throughout the region a day after a deadly twister ripped through a small Oklahoma town and killed at least one person.

Tornadoes were spotted after dark Tuesday in parts of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, while portions of Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri were also under a tornado watch, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecasters warned that the storms could stretch late into the night with the possibility of more twisters and large hail.

In southwestern Michigan, two tornadoes blitzed the city of Portage near Kalamazoo. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office said there were "multiple trees down and wires throughout" Portage and nearby Pavilion Township. A Portage city spokesperson said in a statement that there was significant damage to homes and businesses, but no immediate reports of serious injuries. A Kalamazoo County spokesperson told CBS News that about 15 to 20 people were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries.

Photos posted to social media showed major damage to a FedEx building in the Portage area.

 In a statement to CBS News, a FedEx spokesperson confirmed its facility was damaged, but said there were "no serious injuries."

"We continue to assess the damage, and we are implementing contingency plans to lessen any potential impacts on service," the statement read. 

Portage Director of Public Safety Nicholas Armold told CBS News all FedEx employees were accounted for and none had been trapped beneath the wreckage of the building.

More than 20,000 people lost power in the Portage area, Consumers Energy said Tuesday night. The company estimated most would be without power until 10 p.m. on Wednesday.   

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Branch, and Cass counties on Tuesday night after the storm brought "large hail up to four inches in diameter and at least two confirmed tornadoes," she said in a statement.

Overall Monday night and early Tuesday, at least 22 tornadoes were reported by the National Weather Service across seven states in the Great Plains and Central U.S. The severe weather threat was expected to continue Tuesday night into Wednesday, according to Alex Wilson, meteorologist for The Weather Channel, who reported that Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky were at risk.   

The deadly tornado that touched down Monday night in Oklahoma ripped through the 1,000-person town of Barnsdall, about a 40-minute drive north of Tulsa. The National Weather Service there had warned Monday evening that "a large and life-threatening tornado" was headed toward Barnsdall and the nearby town of Bartlesville.

Oklahoma Town Of Barnsdall Hit By Deadly Tornado
The Crowder family surveys their home destroyed by a tornado on May 7, 2024, in Barnsdall, northeast Oklahoma.  Brandon Bell / Getty Images

It was the second tornado to hit Barnsdall in five weeks — a twister on April 1 with maximum wind speeds of 90 to 100 mph damaged homes and blew down trees and power poles.

Barnsdall Mayor Johnny Kelley said one person was dead while one man was missing after Monday's twister. Authorities launched a secondary search Tuesday morning for the missing man.

"The toughest thing on me as the mayor is this is a small community," Kelley said. "I know 75% to 80% of the people in this town."

At least 30 to 40 homes in the Barnsdall area were damaged Monday night, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.

Aerial videos showed several well-built homes reduced to piles of rubble and others with roofs torn off and damaged walls still standing. The powerful twister tossed vehicles, downed power lines and stripped limbs and bark from trees across the town. A 160-acre wax manufacturing facility in the community also sustained heavy damage.

Oklahoma Town Of Barnsdall Hit By Deadly Tornado
The Millers sit together in the trunk of their car amid their neighborhood levelled by a tornado on May 7, 2024, in Barnsdall, Oklahoma.  Brandon Bell / Getty Images

First responders rescued about 25 people, including children, from heavily damaged homes where buildings had collapsed on or around them, Kelley said. About a half dozen people suffered injuries, he said.

"We did take a direct hit from a tornado" in Bartlesville, said Kary Fox of the Washington County Emergency Management. "Please stay off the roadways. Stay out of those damaged areas. We're having a lot of difficulty getting in to do assessments to check on people, to see if they've got any injuries because of the traffic congestion."  

The Barnsdall Nursing Home said it evacuated residents because a gas leak could not be turned off due to storm damage. It later posted online that all residents were accounted for with no injuries, and they were being taken to other facilities. 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who toured the twister's damage on Tuesday, said it was rated by weather researchers as a violent tornado with wind speeds up to 200 mph. Stitt said he and legislative leaders have agreed to set aside $45 million in this year's budget to help storm-damaged communities.

"Oklahomans are resilient," Stitt said, "and we're going to rebuild."

At the Hampton Inn in Bartlesville, several splintered 2x4s were driven into the south side of the building. Chunks of insulation, twisted metal and other debris were scattered over the hotel's lawn, and vehicles in the parking lot were heavily damaged with smashed-out windows.

Matthew Macedo, who was staying at the hotel, said he was ushered into the hotel laundry room to wait out the storm.

"When the impact occurred, it was incredibly sudden," he said.

The storms tore through Oklahoma as areas including Sulphur and Holdenville were still recovering from a tornado that killed four and left thousands without power late last month. Both the Plains and Midwest have been hammered by tornadoes this spring.

Oklahoma and Kansas had been under a high-risk weather warning Monday. The last time such a warning was issued was March 31, 2023, when a massive storm system tore through parts of the South and Midwest including Arkansas, Illinois and rural Indiana.

The entire week is looking stormy across the U.S. The eastern U.S. and the South are expected to get the brunt of the bad weather through the rest of the week, including in Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Cincinnati, cities where more than 21 million people live. It should be clear over the weekend.

Oklahoma's State Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates storm response from a bunker near the state capital of Oklahoma City, was still activated from last weekend's deadly storms.

Monte Tucker, a farmer and rancher in the western Oklahoma town of Sweetwater, had spent Monday putting some of his tractors and heavy equipment in barns to protect them from hail. He said he let his neighbors know they could come to his house if the weather got dangerous.

"We built a house 10 years ago, and my stubborn wife put her foot down and made sure we built a safe room," Tucker said. He said the entire ground-level room is built with reinforced concrete walls.

Oklahoma and Kansas were under a high-risk weather warning on Monday. Bill Bunting, deputy director of the Storm Prediction Center, said such a warning from the center is not something seen every day or every spring.

"It's the highest level of threat we can assign," he said.

The last time it was issued was March 31, 2023, when a massive storm system tore through parts of the South and Midwest including Arkansas, Illinois and rural Indiana.

The increased risk is due to an unusual confluence: Winds gusting up to around 75 mph were blasting through Colorado's populated Front Range region, including the Denver area, on Monday.

The winds were being created by a low pressure system north of Colorado that was also pulling up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, fueling the risk of severe weather on the Plains, according to the National Weather Service's Denver-area office.

Colorado wasn't at risk of tornadoes or thunderstorms.

Meanwhile, floodwaters in the Houston area began receding Monday after days of heavy rain in southeastern Texas left neighborhoods flooded and led to hundreds of high-water rescues. 

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