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Tornadoes damage homes, train in Wyoming, Colorado (+video)

Tornadoes damaged at least 23 buildings and flipped five train cars as a powerful storm system rolled through parts of Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, packing hail, rain, and at least two tornadoes. No one was seriously injured.

By Associated Press / June 8, 2012

In Southwestern Wyoming a tornado injured one person and damaged more than a dozen homes, while in New Jersey, a funnel cloud shook up a high school graduation. Erica Hill reports.

Denver

 A quarter-mile-wide tornado cut a swath across mainly open country in southeastern Wyoming, damaging homes, derailing empty train cars and leaving one person with minor injuries, officials said.

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The twister was part of a powerful storm system that rolled through parts of Colorado and Wyoming Thursday afternoon and evening, packing heavy rains, high winds and hail. The storms followed a round of nasty late spring weather that pummeled the region Wednesday.

Thursday's tornado in a sparsely populated area near Wheatland, Wyo., left five structures heavily damaged, and 10 to 12 other structures had lesser damage, said Kelly Ruiz of the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security. One of the destroyed homes was vacant, said local radio station owner Kent Smith, speaking for the Platte County Sheriff's Office.

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One person was treated at a hospital for a cut on the head, Smith said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Emanuel said the tornado was one-quarter mile wide and stayed on the ground for much of its 20-mile path from west of Wheatland to northeast of Chugwater. The area is about 60 miles north of Cheyenne.

"It stayed pretty much over open country," Emanuel said. "It didn't hit any towns or cities."

A twister of that size and duration on the ground was unusual for Wyoming, he said.

A Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad crew reported the tornado struck a stopped train near Wheatland, BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said. Five empty train cars derailed onto their sides.

Some power lines also were downed, Ruiz said.

Hail the size of golf balls was reported in the Wheatland area, and 2-inch hail was reported in Laramie, National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Trudel said.

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