Severe thunderstorms packing large hail and tornadoes have rumbled across the United States’ midsection, killing at least eight people and damaging dozens of homes.
Iowa Homeland Security administrator Dave Miller said that seven of the dead were killed by a tornado in northeast Iowa – five from Parkersburg and two from nearby New Hartford. At least 50 injuries were reported.
“Occasionally we have a death but we have warning system. Seven deaths. It’s been a long time since we’ve had those kinds of injuries and deaths reported,” Mr Miller said.
Witnesses reported parts of Parkersburg were reduced to rubble, including most of the town’s high school and homes.
A tornado also struck just to the east in the nearby town of Dunkerton and elsewhere in Black Hawk County, where there were reports of homes damaged or destroyed. Dunkerton has fewer than 800 residents and New Hartford has about 700 people.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver issued a disaster proclamation for Black Hawk and two other counties, a move that helps coordination between state and local authorities.
At least 20 people were unaccounted for in Minnesota after a swift storm blew through the St Paul suburb of Hugo, damaging about four dozen homes, City Administrator Mike Ericson said. Many of them could be out of town for the holiday weekend, he said.
A two-year-old child was killed and the child’s sibling was critically injured and taken to Regions Hospital in St Paul, Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said.
The children’s parents also were hospitalised with injuries sustained in the family home.
“It’s horrible,” Mr Ericson said. “The citizens are very shook and scared.” Governor Tim Pawlenty announced plans to meet with city officials and tour the storm-ravaged city today.