Iowa tornado was one of five or six Friday (+video)

Iowa tornado: A series of large tornadoes - one tornado more than a mile wide - moved east from northeast Nebraska into northwest Iowa Friday.

By , Reuters

A series of tornadoes, some about a mile (1.6 km) across, swept through the U.S. Midwest on Friday, causing a number of injuries and significant damage to homes and businesses, officials said.

Mile-wide tornadoes were spotted in western Iowa's Woodbury County and more than 150 miles (240 km) away in the small town of Plymouth, said Steven Weiss, chief of the science support branch at the federal Storm Prediction Center.

Large tornadoes moved east from northeast Nebraska into northwest Iowa, he said.

Recommended: Tornado checklist: What to do – and what myths to ignore

Up to 13 people were hurt in Wayne, Nebraska, as a twister moved through the northeast corner of the state, NBC News reported.

Several businesses were destroyed and highways in and out of the city were closed for a couple of hours after the storm, said Lee Wrede, a police dispatcher in Wayne.

Wrede said there had been a number of injuries but things could have been worse. "We were extremely lucky," he said. "A lot of things worked right."

A hazardous materials team responded to a possible gas leak at the Van Diest Supply Co, an agricultural chemical distributor in Wayne County, emergency officials said.

Jodie Fawl of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said there were injuries in the state, but could not provide details. Multiple buildings and a softball field were damaged, she said.

"Most of the buildings damages are businesses and it was after hours, so hopefully we are OK there," she said.

Fawl reported five tornadoes in Nebraska's Dixon County and said three farm houses were damaged in Antelope County.

Weiss said forecasters had warned residents to brace for twisters, and that may have led people to take precautions. "It was good forecasts and hopefully the warnings helped people today," he said.

"They did not strike towns directly as far as we know of," he added.

In northwest Iowa, a mile-wide tornado touched down near the town of Cherokee, cutting a 2- to 3-mile path through farmland but missing any population centers, the state Department of Homeland Security said.

The Des Moines Register also reported "major damage" to the high school in nearby Alta, Iowa.

“Parts of the roof are gone, the HVAC system has had significant damage to it, and the grounds around the school, the baseball field, have major damage,” said Aimee Barritt, the Buena Vista County emergency management coordinator. The storm also broke windows and damaged doors in the school. 

Damage also was reported in Quimby, Iowa, and Union, South Dakota, according to the National Weather Service.

It was unclear how many tornadoes touched down in all, said Billy Williams, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

"There has been some significant damage, but we don't have all of the details yet," he said.

In an 11-day period in May, Oklahoma was struck by two EF5 tornadoes, the strongest rating assigned to such storms. The first, on May 20, flattened whole sections of the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, killing 24 people including seven children at a school.
The second, on May 31, was the widest tornado ever recorded in the United States at 2.6 miles (4 km). Nineteen people died in that storm. (Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Doina Chiacu and David Brunnstrom)

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