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.
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."
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.
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.
"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)