Tornadoes leave at least 3 dead in Ohio and flatten buildings in Indiana

At least three people were killed after a tornado hit Logan County, Ohio, and significant injuries and flattened buildings were reported in an Indiana town as severe weather struck several states Thursday, officials said.

Logan County, Ohio, Sheriff Randall Dodds said that there were two deaths at the Geiger Mobile Home Park in Lakeview, north of Dayton, after a tornado hit the area.

He confirmed the third storm-related death during a Friday morning news conference. It was not immediately clear if the death also occurred at the mobile home park.

Speaking to NBC's "TODAY" show earlier Friday, Dodds said it is possible that more injuries or deaths could be confirmed as the day progresses.

"It's devastating — devastation beyond belief. It will probably be even more severe when daylight comes up," he said.

Heavy lifting equipment is needed to gain access to some houses damaged by the storm, Dodds said. He added that some areas had been searched twice but deputies would again comb the area with dogs to make sure no one is trapped.

"I'm hoping we're going to find some survivors today who made it through the night, and I'm looking forward to that happening," Dodds said.

The National Weather Service determined Friday afternoon that "at least" a "high-end" EF-2 tornado tore through Logan County. EF-1 tornadoes touched down in Licking and western Mercer counties, the weather service said.

They were among 14 tornadoes reported across seven states.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio Department of Transportation were working to assist communities affected by the storm. As of Friday afternoon, 12,755 customers in Ohio were without power, according to

"Ohioans will come together as they always do with resilience and compassion as we support and rebuild our communities," DeWine said.

'Sky was completely black' in Indiana

In Winchester, Indiana, homes were damaged and some buildings were flattened in the city of around 4,800 near the Ohio border after a possible tornado struck minutes before 8 p.m., officials said.

Earlier reports from Indiana State Police that three people died there were incorrect and the agency was not aware of any deaths, Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said — but he said there was a “terrible, terrible event” in Winchester and many significant injuries.

“I heard what sounded like a train,” Winchester Mayor Bob McCoy said of the storm.

“We need to really wait until the morning to really see what the true damage is,” he said. “We’re going to continue to work through the night and try and find people.”

The weather service said that there was damage in Winchester, most likely from a tornado, but that a tornado had not been confirmed there.

Up to half the buildings in Selma, a community of around 750 people west of Winchester, may have been damaged, emergency management officials said.

“The sky was completely black,” Lisa Gulley, who lives in Selma, told NBC affiliate WTHR of Indianapolis. She was filming the weather.

“I saw the clouds were kind of spinning and I saw it form, basically over my neighbor’s house, just two doors down — and then it just dropped,” Gulley said. “We barely had time to get in the house.”

Gulley told WTHR that as soon as they got in the hallway of their home, one of their fence panels went flying through a sliding glass door.

“The whole door just exploded,” she said. “It took all the shingles off the back of my house.”

The Emergency Management Agency in Delaware County, where Selma is, said despite the damage it was relieved to report only one minor injury as of late Thursday.

Indiana State Police initially said there were three deaths in Winchester. Carter, the state police superintendent, said he was glad that the information changed.

"The good news is, is at this point in time we don't know," Carter said. "I'll tell you, coming over here I thought the death toll would be in excess of 20 or 25 people, based on the information that I was receiving."

Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Winchester said that as of midnight it had received 39 patients from the storms.

Thursday was the most active day of the year so far

The storms occurred on a day when tornado watches stretched across a band of the U.S., from northeast Texas, through parts of Arkansas and Indiana, and into Ohio. More than 13 million people were under tornado watches Thursday night, according to the weather service.

There were more than 300 storm reports Thursday, making it the most active day of the year so far. According to a National Weather Service storm reporting website, there were eight reports made of tornadoes in Ohio, Indiana, and Texas as of late Thursday, but those are unconfirmed reports and sometimes more than one refers to a single storm.

The weather service will begin surveying the damage to determine the number of confirmed tornadoes and their strength.

In Huron County, Ohio, emergency officials reported a tornado an estimated half-mile wide crossing a highway, according to that report on the weather service's storm reports website.

The Huron County Emergency Management Agency reported minimal damage and no injuries.

Arkansas State Police said they were responding to downed power lines and damage to roofs in Hot Springs Village, a community of around 15,000 west of Little Rock.

Where is the system headed next?

By Friday afternoon, 17 million people were under a severe storm risk across southern Texas, including San Antonio and Austin, and parts of Mississippi and Alabama, including Jackson and Montgomery, as well as through the Florida Panhandle.

A severe thunderstorm watch is also in effect until 7 p.m. CT from southeast Louisiana through southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western part of the Florida Panhandle. The watch includes New Orleans; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola and Panama City in Florida.

Very large hail is the main concern, especially in Texas. Isolated tornadoes and damaging wind gusts up to 65 mph are also possible.

Along the Gulf Coast, heavy rain is possible through Sunday. Spotty reports of urban flash flooding are possible in areas such as Houston; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana; and Mobile, Alabama.

Meanwhile, the Denver metro area experienced snowfall ranging from 5 inches to 20 inches. Heavy snow is expected to continue in the mountains of southwest Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona through Saturday with an additional 12 to 24 inches of snow possible.

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