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Tornadoes Kill at least 3 and Leave Trails of Destruction in the Central US

LAKEVIEW, Ohio — Blaine Schmidt sifted through the broken glass and splintered wood throughout his Ohio home Friday, salvaging a guitar and a bundle of diapers.

His couch and a crib had been ripped apart by one of many tornadoes that tore through the central U.S., killing at least three people and injuring dozens more. The storm peeled open his living room, but at least the house was standing. The one next door was flattened.

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

Thursday night’s storms left trails of destruction across parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas. About 40 people were injured and dozens of homes damaged in one Indiana community. Tornadoes were also suspected in Illinois and Missouri.

The Indian Lake area in Ohio’s Logan County appeared to be the hardest hit. At least three people died in the county northwest of Columbus, said Sheriff Randy Dodds.

Search crews and cadaver dogs were looking for more victims Friday, going into neighborhoods that had been blocked by gas leaks and fallen trees overnight, Dodds said.

Emergency crews and residents pick up around Winchester, Ind., Friday morning, March 15, 2024, after severe weather hit the area Thursday night. The roof of a Goodwill location off of Indiana Highway 27 was torn off and its walls were shredded. (AP Photo/Isabella Volmert )

“It’s going to take a long time,” he said, adding that he wasn’t aware of anybody unaccounted for. Much of the damage was in the villages of Lakeview and Russells Point, which are dotted with summer cottages owned by people who come for fishing and boating.

In Lakeview, Sandy Smith took shelter in a laundry room with her family after hearing the storm sirens. Seconds later, they heard debris batter the house. Her husband watched the garage blow away.

She went upstairs to rescue their cat who was trapped under a bookshelf. As soon she came back down, the roof collapsed.

“We’re just blessed to be alive,” she said.

A campground, an RV park and laundromat were among the many businesses damaged. The storm produced fires in some spots and draped power lines through home windows, said Amber Fagan, president of the local chamber of commerce.

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

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

Weather officials were just beginning to confirm the tornadoes, but across the region, awestruck residents captured funnels on video.

In Indiana, a tornado injured 38 people in Winchester. Three were in critical condition, but their injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.

Debris covers the ground in front of a damaged home after severe weather passed the area on Thursday, March 14, 2024 in Jefferson Manor Subdivision near Hanover, Ind. A fierce storm system that unleashed suspected twisters and damaged homes and businesses in parts of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. (Sgt. Stephen Wheeles/Indiana State Police via AP)

Residents in the town northeast of Indianapolis picked tree branches and sheet metal from their yards. Shingles littered streets and fields.

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

Across from a church that was destroyed, a hymnal blown was open to number No. 118, “Shelter in Time of Storm.”

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 when the twister hit.

“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.

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

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 as many as 100 homes and businesses, said Trimble County Emergency Management Director Andrew Stark.

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

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

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

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