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Tornadoes leave trail of destruction in multiple states, killing at least 3

Tornadoes tore through several central U.S. states, flattening homes and trailers in an RV park and killing at least three people in Ohio

By Joshua A. Bickel and John Seewer
Associated Press

LAKEVIEW, Ohio — Tornadoes tore through several central U.S. states, flattening homes and trailers in an RV park and killing at least three people, authorities said. Crews and cadaver dogs searched for more victims in the rubble 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, with the villages of Lakeview and Russells Point devastated. At least three people died, said Sheriff Randy Dodds.

Search crews went into neighborhoods that had been blocked by gas leaks and fallen trees overnight and made a second pass in areas that were checked in the darkness right after the storm, Dodds said.

“It’s going to take a long time,” he said, adding he wasn’t aware of anybody unaccounted for. Earlier, the sheriff told NBC’s “Today” show that he expected more victims would be found.

In Lakeview, Sandy Smith was walking down the stairs with her cat to seek shelter in a laundry room with her family when the roof came down.

“A couple flashes of light, and then everything just peppered against the house,” she said. Her husband then saw their garage blow away.

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.

The storm produced fires in some spots and draped power lines through windows of homes, said Amber Fagan, president of the local chamber of commerce.

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.

In Indiana, a suspected tornado injured 38 people in Winchester, officials said, but it appears no one died.

Residents of the town of 4,700 about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Indianapolis picked tree branches and sheet metal from their yards Friday morning. Shingles littered the streets and fields in the southern part of town. The high school was serving as a temporary shelter.

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

A church was destroyed. A few remnants still stood, as well as a mural depicting a flowing river, with a white awning still attached. A sign below the mural read, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

The storm damaged or destroyed about 130 homes and a Taco Bell restaurant, Mayor Bob McCoy said. He and his wife 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.

West of Winchester, officials said as many as half the structures in the town of Selma, population 750, might have been damaged. Only minor injuries were reported, emergency officials said in a news release.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb praised first responders in Indiana, saying: “By the grace of God, everyone has lived through it all.”

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 in the Little Rock area injured more than 50 people and killed one person.

There were reports of tornadoes in Jefferson County, Missouri, and Monroe County, Illinois.

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.