LAPORTE, Ind. – Storms packing winds strong enough to toss a sheriff's department cruiser over a fence spawned tornadoes that leveled houses and downed power lines in several states.
The storms buffeted parts of Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois and Ohio on Thursday. Tornadoes touched down in Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois, officials in those states said.
Debris injured at least seven people in the northeastern Tennessee town of New Tazewell. At least four homes were destroyed, and as many as 400 homes — about one in every five homes in Claiborne County — lost power, officials said.
Jason Ellis said his family fled their mobile home when the wind started rocking it back and forth.
"It felt like the top of the house was fixing to come off. I just didn't want to chance it," he said.
By Friday morning, electricity was restored to all but about two dozen homes, and roads had already been cleared of fallen limbs, said David Breeding, the county's deputy emergency management director.
About 100 miles to the southwest, a tornado touched down outside Crossville, Tenn., damaging buildings and peeling the roof off an unoccupied trailer, authorities said. No injuries were reported there.
The National Weather Service sent teams Friday to both areas to confirm tornadoes.
In Plainfield, Ill., a small tornado tore off parts of a nursing home's roof, flipped over a minivan and damaged several homes but no injuries were reported, authorities said.
In LaPorte County, Indiana, near Lake Michigan, a detective's patrol car was tossed over a 3-foot-high fence, Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said.
"I don't think I would have believed it unless I'd seen it," he said.
In rural Brown County in southwestern Ohio, Donna Young's front porch was blown about 50 feet from her house by a tornado, the National Weather Service said.
"It was a nice, railed, country covered porch," she said. The storm "came from the south and just picked the porch to take out."