Heavy Rains Lash Central Plains

A line of thunderstorms packing heavy rain, hail and high wind generated tornadoes as it moved through several Midwestern states, leaving at least three people injured.

The storms dropped golfball-sized hail, destroyed homes, knocked down power lines and tipped over trailers in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska, authorities said late Thursday.

The destruction was apparently heaviest in Kansas, where Gov. Kathleen Sebelius declared a state of emergency in Montgomery County in the southeastern part of the state.

In central Kansas, a small tornado touched down near the town of Hutchinson, where officials said lightning or downed power lines may have sparked prairie fires that forced the evacuation of several homes. Winds overturned a semitrailer and damaged structures in the northeastern part of the state.

One person was injured in a home when a tornado touched down in the community of Havana, said Joy Moser, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. The tornado then traveled northeast, overturning mobile homes at Elk City Lake before slamming into the community of Le Hunt.

In a rural area 10 miles north of Independence, five homes were destroyed and several mobile homes were tipped over, Sebelius said in a news release. One man was airlifted to a hospital in Joplin, Mo., the release said.

The weather service said another person was hurt when a car blew over in Marion County.

The Kansas Highway Patrol said winds contributed to injury accidents in McPherson and Sumner counties. In one of them, a driver overcorrected while trying to avoid a tractor-trailer that was being blown over, troopers said.

In Nebraska, two semis were blown off Interstate 80 west of Grand Island, said Deb Collins of the Nebraska State Patrol office in Lincoln.

A tornado that touched down near Papillion blew off sections of the Papillion Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, officials said. Several out buildings were blown over on a farm south of Papillion.

About 8,500 Omaha Public Power District customers lost power, officials said. Power was restored to most customers within a few hours.

In Iowa, tornadoes were reported near Creston in the southwestern part of the state and near DeSoto in central Iowa, said Craig Cogil, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Johnston. He said the thunderstorms brought winds reaching up to 80 mph.

In the Ames area, Cogil said one mobile home was destroyed by high winds and two others were blown or tipped from their foundation.