A powerful storm system that flattened much of an Iowa town over the weekend spawned what may be a record-breaking seven tornadoes in Wisconsin, officials said Monday.
"It's one of the most significant tornado outbreaks in April," said Rich Mamrosh, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. If confirmed, the number of Sunday night storms may have broken a record for a single day in April in the Badger State. The current record is six.
The peak U.S. tornado season lasts from March until early July. It's a period when warm, humid air often has to thrust upward against cool, dry air.
More severe weather was anticipated Monday as a swath of rain and thunderstorms stretching more than 1,000 miles — from Texas to the lower Great Lakes region — heads east, The Weather Channel reported. The storms were expected to intensify Monday afternoon and produce scattered areas of wind damage.
Across Wisconsin, tornadoes ripped down houses, barns, power lines and trees, according to WHBL radio.
It said twisters were seen in Lincoln, Marathon and Adams counties. The Weather Channel also reported tornadoes in Sac and Pocahontas counties.
In La Crosse County, 15 homes and a number of vehicles were damaged by hail the size of tennis balls, while baseball-sized hail hit Winneconne, WHBL reported.
A tornado in the town of Merrill caused widespread damage to homes and businesses, said Capt. Scott Krause of the Merrill Fire Department. Three people were taken to area hospitals.
Golf-ball sized hail fell in South Carolina, while in Pulaski, Va., eight people were injured and hundreds of homes damaged Saturday by two tornadoes, TODAY reported.
"It's hard to look at this and think 'this is where I grew up,'" said one resident. "My house is completely gone."
Iowa town wrecked
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad declared a state of emergency Saturday after a storm destroyed over half the town of Mapleton, but left no one seriously injured among its 1,200 residents, according to local law enforcement.
The Weather Channel said wind speeds were estimated at between 136 to 165 mph.
Tom Sanford, 92, found part of his neighbor's chimney in his living room, next to his busted television.
Sanford and his neighbors will spend the next several months rebuilding the western Iowa town of 1,200.
Emergency responders have not yet calculated an exact dollar amount for the losses, but the Monona County sheriff said the recovery would likely cost millions of dollars, and Branstad has promised state help.
The huge, centuries-old trees the town was named for had been pulled out of the ground and wrapped around houses and tossed on top of cars. In one case, a huge motor home had been flipped on its side.
"It's not a pretty sight," Mayor Fred Standa said. "It's something nobody has seen in this town."
The tornado destroyed 12 to 15 blocks in the southwest corner of Mapleton when it struck about 7:20 p.m. Saturday, Sheriff Jeff Pratt said. The tornado destroyed about 100 homes and displaced an estimated 500 to 600 residents, he said.
The tornado was on the ground for 3.5 miles and measured three-quarters of a mile wide at one point, according to the National Weather Service office in Valley, Neb.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.