Tornadoes kill 3 and leave trails of destruction in central US

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LAKEVIEW, Ohio (AP) — Blaine Schmidt sifted through broken glass and splintered wood in his Ohio home Friday and recovered a guitar and a package of diapers.

His couch and crib had been destroyed by one of the many tornadoes that devastated the central United States, killing three people and injuring dozens more. The storm tore open the wall of their living room, but at least the house was standing. The one next to it was crushed.

“Am lucky to be alive”Schmidt said hours after he and his roommate took refuge in a bathtub, using the shower curtain to protect them from flying window glass.

Thursday night storms are gone paths of destruction in parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas. About 40 people were injured and dozens of homes were damaged in an Indiana community. Tornadoes were also reported in Illinois and Missouri.

The Indian Lake area in Logan County, Ohio, was one of the hardest hit. Three people died in the county northwest of Columbus, Sheriff Randy Dodds said.

Much of the damage occurred in the villages of Russells Point and Lakeview, where Schmidt lives. The towns are dotted with cabins owned by people who come to fish and boat.

Search teams and cadaver dogs found no more victims Friday after entering neighborhoods that had been blocked by gas leaks and downed trees overnight, Dodds said.

“When you see this damage, you’ll be surprised it was only three,” the sheriff said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who assessed the damage and met with residents, said it was fortunate the storm did not hit on a summer weekend.

Sandy Smith took shelter with her family in the laundry room of her Lakeview home after hearing storm sirens. Seconds later, they heard debris hit the house. Her husband saw the garage blow up.

He went upstairs to rescue his cat who was trapped under a bookshelf. As soon as she came back down, the ceiling collapsed.

A campground, trailer park and laundromat were among the many businesses damaged. The storm sparked fires in some places and dropped power lines through home windows, said Amber Fagan, president of the local chamber of commerce.

About 25 people were treated for broken bones and internal injuries at the nearest hospital in Bellefontaine, said Laura Miller, spokeswoman for Mary Rutan Hospital.

About a half-dozen Lakeview residents interviewed by The Associated Press said they heard tornado sirens 10 minutes before the storm hit, after they sounded earlier.

Weather officials were assessing damage and confirming tornadoes, counting at least five that touched down in Ohio alone.

In Indiana, a tornado injured 38 people in Winchester, where the mayor said about 130 homes and a Taco Bell restaurant were damaged or destroyed. Three people were in critical condition, but their injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.

Residents, who said they received many warnings to take shelter, collected tree branches and sheets of metal from their yards. Shingles covered streets and fields in the city northeast of Indianapolis.

Carey Todd, 55, said the tornado looked like “a bunch of black birds.”

In front of a church that was destroyed, a hymnal was opened at number 118, “Refuge in Times of Storm.”

Mayor Bob McCoy said he and his wife were hiding in a closet.

“I had never heard that sound before; “I don’t want to hear it again,” McCoy said.

West of Winchester, authorities said up to half of the structures in the city of Selma, population 750, may have been damaged. Only minor injuries were reported, emergency officials said in a news release.

Gov. Eric Holcomb praised first responders in Indiana, saying, “By the grace of God, we have all survived all of this.”

The storms also damaged homes and trailers in the Ohio River communities of Hanover and Lamb in Indiana.

In Milton, Kentucky, two people were injured when their car was hit by debris from a tornado that damaged up to 100 homes and businesses, Trimble County Emergency Management Director Andrew Stark said.

In Arkansas, a tornado hit the Hot Springs Village retirement community southwest of Little Rock, but there were no reports of fatalities or injuries, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Erik Green.


Seewer reported from Toledo, Ohio. Associated Press journalists across the country contributed to this report, including Isabella Volmert in Winchester, Indiana; Lisa Baumann; Sara Brumfield; Rick Callahan Stefanie Dazio Kathy McCormack; Ken Miller; and Patricio Orsagos.

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