Nirmalendu Majumdar  /  AP
Floodwaters nearly swallowed up this car Friday in Cambridge, Iowa. Runoff from heavy rain forced the evacuation of about a dozen homes in Cambridge.
NBC News and news services
updated 6/6/2008 6:54:17 PM ET 2008-06-06T22:54:17

Strong storms smashed houses, deluged neighborhoods, caused airport delays and left thousands without power across the Midwest on Friday in the latest round of fierce weather. No injuries were reported.

A strong storm packing at least one tornado raked a half-mile-wide path of destruction in northwestern Minnesota, ripping up roofs and trees and pushing cars off the road.

The storm system across the central U.S. also caused trouble at Chicago's O'Hare airport, where some 200 flights were cancelled and others delayed.

In Minnesota, Robert Meeks, a dispatcher at the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department, told NBC News that "homes are completely gone" in the town of Emmaville. He reported "lots of damage."

Officials there later said there were no reports of any injuries in the storm, which also caused widespread damage in Park Rapids and flooding elsewhere.

"Right now, I can tell you we've been fortunate," Sheriff Gary Mills said.

Emmaville resident Drew Huntziger told KSTP-TV every tree in his yard was uprooted and his mobile home was damaged.

KPRM-AM in Park Rapids reported that a turkey farm near Blueberry Lake was destroyed, a small housing development suffered minor damage and many trees were downed throughout the area.

The National Weather Service also reported damage in the small town of Menahga and Pickerel Lake.

Forecasters earlier said the greatest threat for severe weather Friday was in Illinois, as a low pressure system continued its trek across the Great Plains.

Storms were expected to linger in the mid-Mississippi Valley into the evening and overnight, when severe weather was possible.

Iowa flooding
Runoff from heavy rain early Friday forced the evacuation of about a dozen homes in Cambridge, in central Iowa. The evacuations were along two streets in a low-lying area in the town. Residents fled at about 3 a.m. and no injuries were reported.

"The ground is just fully saturated. The runoff from the community just all comes to that part of town. This is probably the worst it's ever been," said Lori Morrissey, the emergency management coordinator for Story County.

Morrissey said more than 2 inches of rain fell in storms that began Thursday night in the region. Flooding remains the top concern.

Frank Boska, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Johnston, Iowa, said 3.7 inches of rain fell overnight at the Des Moines International Airport. Streets downtown were covered with water and several manhole covers popped off.

Elephants escape
On Thursday, at least four tornadoes touched down in western and central Kansas. Tornadoes were also reported in Nebraska and Missouri, and a funnel cloud was spotted in Colorado.

In Kansas, some homes and businesses were damaged and a couple of circus elephants were rattled by storms in WaKeeney. One of the animals entered a backyard less than a mile from fairgrounds in town and was blocked off by fire trucks until trainers could coax it onto a truck, Trego County Sheriff Richard Schneider said.

Image: Elephant
Gloria Folkers  /  AP
An elephant wanders through Gloria and Melvin Folkers' backyard in WaKeeney, Kan., on Thursday. The elephant was one of two that escaped a traveling circus after a big storm.
"I guess it got tired of walking around," he said.

The second elephant was tranquilized in another backyard, coaxed into a truck and returned to the circus, which was already packing up to head to the next town, Schneider said.

A twister in Clay County in north-central Kansas destroyed a home, damaged several other buildings and toppled trees and power lines, sheriff's dispatcher Cat Dallinga said. Storms also damaged roofs at the Pratt County airport in south-central Kansas and overturned tractor-trailers along Interstate 29, officials said.

Wind and hail caused extensive roof damage in Collyer, near WaKeeney, Schneider said.

Thousands still without power
Storms soaked the region Wednesday and then moved across to the mid-Atlantic region. Four deaths were blamed on the storms, in Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia and Virginia.

In the Washington area, Wednesday’s storm toppled tree lines and power lines, leaving tens of thousands of homes and businesses without electricity.

Some 21,000 utility customers were still without power Friday morning in the Washington, D.C., area due to downed power lines.

Some failures could last for several days because of the severity of the damage, Pepco spokesman Bob Dobkin said.

The weather service confirmed tornadoes knocking down trees and tearing roofs off several homes and a restaurant.

Heat into the 90s that was predicted through the weekend in parts of the Midwest and East was already plaguing crews in southwestern Ohio as they worked to restore power after thunderstorms and tornadoes in a week of crazy weather.

Cincinnati declared a heat alert and opened cooling centers, with temperatures in the 90s forecast for the weekend as far east as New York City.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Elephants escape


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