Powerful tornadoes rip through U.S. Midwest

Reuters News
Posted: May 22, 2011 10:43 PM
Powerful tornadoes rip through U.S. Midwest

KANSAS CITY (Reuters) - Tornadoes tore through parts of the U.S. Midwest on Sunday, killing at least one person in Minneapolis and damaging whole neighborhoods as well as a hospital in the Missouri town of Joplin, according to authorities and local television footage.

"It's done quite a bit of damage," a police officer in Joplin told Reuters by telephone. "It hit quite a few parts of town."

It was not immediately clear whether there were fatalities or serious injuries in Joplin, but video on the Weather Channel showed extensive areas where whole neighborhoods had been leveled.

A local hospital, St. John's Regional Medical Center, appeared to have sustained heavy damage.

Missouri State Highway Patrol dispatcher Charles Bradley said the extent of the damage is still unknown as a variety of state and local agencies send help to the area. He said it appears the devastation could rival that seen in Tuscaloosa, Alabama last month, where more than 30 people died when tornadoes struck on April 27. Across Alabama, more than 230 people died in the tornadoes that swept the state that night.

"There is a hospital that was majorly damaged," Bradley said of Joplin's damage. "It's kind of like Tuscaloosa again."

Danny Gordon, an emergency services dispatcher in the area, said damage seemed to be heaviest on the south end of Joplin and that a triage center was being set up on the scene.

"We have asked all available law enforcement from adjoining counties for assistance," he said.

Another tornado ripped through the north end of Minneapolis and some suburbs, tearing roofs off dozens of homes and garages, killing one person and injuring at least 18 others, authorities said.

They were still assessing the damage caused by the tornado, which struck on Sunday afternoon.

Storms knocked out electricity to about 22,000 homes and businesses in the area, but power was restored to several thousand customers within hours, according to Xcel Energy Inc spokeswoman Mary Sandok

Tornadoes overnight on Saturday in northeast Kansas killed one person and damaged some 200 structures, and resulted in a state of emergency being declared for 16 counties, state officials said on Sunday morning.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy, Carey Gillam and David Bailey; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton and Peter Bohan)