Tornadoes cause damage, injuries across Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota

Traci Krus looks to salvage personal items from her damaged home Saturday in Wayne, Neb.

Multiple tornadoes — one of them a mile wide — struck Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota on Friday, injuring up to 15 people and causing significant damage, meteorologists and local authorities said.

The Weather Channel counted 17 reports of tornadoes across the three states. The National Weather Service reported late Friday that it had confirmed six of the reports — four of them in Iowa.

The injuries were reported in Wayne, Neb., where a tornado hit about 5:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. ET). Providence Medical Center said it was treating seven "walking wounded" and seven others who were injured in auto accidents. A trauma patient was being treated at a second hospital, it said.

At least ten buildings were destroyed and five were heavily damaged, including the city's softball complex, according to city officials. All roads into the city were closed, the Nebraska State Patrol said. 

"You get this feeling that you've been punched in the gut," Wayne Mayor Ken Chamberlain said. "A lot of people's hard work was destroyed this morning."

Several people were trapped in a building, and a hazardous materials crew was en route to evaluate a gas leak at a supply company, Jodie Fawl, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, told The Omaha World-Herald.

"The tornado ripped through the east side of town" about three blocks from Wayne State College, Jay Collier, a spokesman for the college, told the Omaha paper. "We are doing everything we can to assist the city."

The Wayne Daily News reported late Friday that many buildings in the town's main industrial park were destroyed or heavily damaged, along with several homes south of the city.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman declared Wayne a disaster area.

Lucinda Robertson, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department, told NBC News that a tornado was also reported to have touched down in rural Woodbury County.

Woodbury County Sheriff's Lt. Tony Wingert said parts of the area were heavily damaged.

"It's a mess," Wingert told the Argus Leader newspaper of nearby Sioux Falls, S.D. "We have more than 30 rural homes destroyed, farms destroyed. We don't have a number for the number of cars destroyed."

So far, no injuries had been reported, he said.

Major damage was also reported in Quimby, Iowa, after a twister touched down around 7:30 p.m., the National Weather Service said. And preliminary assessments indicated significant damage in the town of Moville, Iowa, where a tornado estimated at a mile wide hit at 6:57 p.m. 

The National Weather Service, citing local firefighters, said damage was also reported in Jefferson, S.D., where Steve Stouffer told The Sioux City Journal that he was outside when the storm hit his neighborhood.

"I saw a wall of water coming, and then the wind switched from the east to the south real fast," he said. "Then I decided it was time to go into the house."

While scattered tornado watches remained in effect at 10:30 p.m. ET, most advisories across the region had been downgraded to severe thunderstorm warnings.

The National Weather Service said the tornadoes were part of a "supercell" storm system that moved into the Midwest after it dumped almost 3 feet of snow on parts of Wyoming and South Dakota.

At least three deaths have been blamed on the snow after a pickup truck skidded and went out of control Friday morning on snow-slickened U.S. Highway 20 in Dawes County in northeastern Nebraska, investigators said.

Gil Aegerter, Christopher E. Nelson and Daniella Silva of NBC News contributed to this report.

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