A band of storms stretching from the Texas Panhandle to Wisconsin has caused death and destruction in the central United States during the past few days. At least 7 people were killed in Iowa and Minnesota by tornadoes on Sunday. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, this is the worst storm season in a decade in the central plains states.
According to the National Weather Service more than 100 people have died in tornadoes this year, the worst toll in a decade, and there may be many more storms to come.
The worst tornado Sunday was the one that hit the town of Parkersburg, Iowa. Mayor Robert Haylock says about a third of the town of about 1,000 residents was destroyed. He said early warning sirens sent people scrambling to underground shelters.
"We had real good notice," said Haylock. "Our sirens all went off well in advance. People were down in their basements waiting for it."
Emergency crews arrived shortly after the storm struck. Some residents were able to visit the rubble of what had been their homes, but officials cautioned people to be wary of downed electrical lines and broken gas pipes.
Iowa's governor and two senators toured the disaster site and say they plan to ask President Bush for federal help.
In a VOA telephone interview, Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Ulrich said Parkersburg has been left uninhabitable for the moment.
URLICH: "The whole town really has no place to stay. We have no water, electricity, gas or anything, so there is no place right now."
FLAKUS: "What is being done for those people?"
URLICH: "Being Iowans that we have here and hardy, and neighbor taking care of neighbor, and relative taking care of relative, a lot of them are going to their family, friends and staying with them. We are providing some shelter for those who do not have any of those resources."
A tornado also hit the town of Hugo, near St Paul, Minnesota Sunday.
On Saturday, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes raked across Oklahoma destroying some buildings and uprooting trees, but causing no injuries.
In the neighboring state of Kansas, crews continue to clean up after a storm system that spawned 17 tornadoes last week and left two people dead. A tornado also killed one person in northern Colorado and damaged nearly 600 homes.
Weather experts say there could be more destructive storms ahead because of atmospheric conditions this year that favor storm formation. Tornado activity typically peaks in early summer and then decreases until late fall, when there is often another spike in severe storms.