CHETEK — A tornado swept into a mobile home park near a small town in western Wisconsin on Tuesday, killing one person and leaving around 25 injured, as a storm system also pounded parts of at least seven states from Texas to near the Canadian border with high winds and hail.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told several media that the tornado damaged the Prairie Lakes Estates trailer park north of Chetek. The National Weather Service reported the tornado touched down in the area just after 5:30 p.m.
Helicopter video from WCCO-TV and KARE-TV shows extensive damage at the trailer park, with several homes reduced to rubble.
“It’s a mess,” Fitzgerald told the Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire. “It’s pretty bad. We have at least one deceased so far and we’re still in a search pattern.”
Chetek is about 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Eau Claire.
Chetek Mayor Jeff Martin told KSTP-TV that numerous emergency vehicles went to the trailer park. He estimated the park had around 50 homes.
A mobile home is a particularly dangerous place to be during a tornado, according to the National Weather Service website. The Storm Prediction Center, which specializes in forecasting and gathering data on tornadoes, says that high winds during a tornado can rip a mobile home without a foundation from its moorings. In 2011, when devastating tornadoes struck in Joplin, Missouri, and in Alabama and Mississippi, 111 of the 551 people killed nationwide in tornadoes, or 20 percent, were in mobile homes, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
The Wisconsin tornado was part of a huge swath of the Plains and Upper Midwest threatened with severe weather. The area stretches from the Texas Panhandle through Oklahoma, western Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa into Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Another tornado struck a rural area in western Oklahoma, leaving damage in its wake but no immediate reports of injuries.
The storm struck a subdivision about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday just south of Elk City, Oklahoma, about 110 miles (177 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City.
“A lot of tornado damage” has been reported to the subdivision and surrounding rural area, with some homes and outbuildings damaged severely and utility poles and lines downed, said Beckham County Emergency Management Director Lonnie Risenhoover. Cattle have been killed, but Risenhoover said he had no immediate reports of people injured.
Other tornadoes in western Oklahoma and the eastern Texas Panhandle have downed power lines and utility poles, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
By evening, the National Weather Service listed nearly 20 reports of tornadoes from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin, although some of those could be multiple reports of the same tornado.