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Tornadoes rake southern Plains, destroying dozens of homes

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Tornadoes raked the southern Plains Wednesday, overturning cars on an Oklahoma City interstate, destroying dozens of homes and prompting evacuations at Will Rogers World Airport.

No deaths were reported from the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma and rural parts of Kansas and Nebraska, but officials reported 18 injuries in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Emergency Management told CBS News five people were being treated for critical injuries, another five for serious injuries, and eight had been treated and released.

Watch: Time-lapse of severe Midwest weather

The worst damage seemed to be in the Oklahoma City area. A twister destroyed homes at Bridge Creek, Amber and Blanchard, southwest of the city, and it appeared another tornado touched down later Wednesday evening when a second storm came through the area.

"We have damage reports, so we do strongly think there was a tornado on the south side of Oklahoma City," meteorologist Michael Scotten with the National Weather Service in Norman said after the second storm that hit around 8:40 p.m.

CBS affiliate KWTV reported that hundreds of people were evacuated twice from the terminal at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City to an underground pedestrian tunnel as the storms hit. All air traffic in and out of the airport was halted during the second evacuation.

KWTV said the airport suffered some water damage, but was reopened to flights Wednesday evening. There were flight cancellations expected into Thursday morning, and travelers were being advised to check with the airport before leaving home.

The second storm that swept through Oklahoma City storm flipped vehicles on Interstate 35 and left power lines strewn across the roadway, Scotten said.

The driver of a truck which crashed during severe weather on Interstate 35 gestures to his rescuers after being cut from the truck in Moore, Okla., May 6, 2015. AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

In Grady County, about 25 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, a zoo was hit by a tornado, prompting concerns that animals could be on the loose. The Grady County Sheriff's Office confirmed to CBS News that all of the animals at the Tiger Safari in in Tuttle had been accounted for.

Another threat also loomed: flooding. The storms dumped up to 6 inches in the southern part of Oklahoma City, prompting the city to issue a flash flood emergency for the first time in its history, said city spokeswoman Kristy Yager. Road crews were waiting for the storms to abate to set up barricades and evaluate trouble spots.

"They'll dispatch as soon as the storms end and the weather clears," Yager said.

The Storm Prediction Center had warned that bad weather would come to Tornado Alley, and more storms were possible later in the week, with flooding a major concern.

Meteorologist Mike Bettes of The Weather Channel reports that a system larger than Wednesday's was forecast to cause a multi-day outbreak of storms in parts of Tornado Alley starting Saturday.

"People just really need to stay weather aware, have a plan and understand that severe storms are possible across portions of the southern Plains almost daily through Saturday," National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Kurtz said.

In Oklahoma, Grady County Emergency Management Director Dale Thompson said about 10 homes were destroyed in Amber and 25 were destroyed in Bridge Creek. As the storm moved to the east, forecasters declared a tornado emergency for Moore, where seven schoolchildren were among 24 people killed in a storm two years ago. When the first of the storms moved through Wednesday, school districts held their pupils in safe places.

At Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, people were twice evacuated into a tunnel outside the security zone.

In Nebraska, 10 to 15 homes were damaged near Grand Island, and between Hardy and Ruskin, near the Kansas line.

At least nine tornadoes were reported in Kansas, the strongest of them in the sparsely populated north-central part of the state. That included a large tornado near the tiny town of Republic just south of the Nebraska state line, where some homes were damaged. In Harvey County, a tornado destroyed a hog barn and damaged trees, according to the National Weather Service.

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