BRADGATE, Iowa – Houses lay crumpled to their foundations and hundreds of thousands of people were without power Saturday after storms tore through the Midwest, including a tornado (search) that leveled this tiny Iowa town.
"Sixty seconds of horror and weeks and months of rehabilitation and rebuilding," said Gov. Tom Vilsack, who took a walking tour of Bradgate (search), population 100, in northwestern Iowa.
Fifteen people in Bradgate and nearby Rolfe were injured, though none seriously, in the Friday night tornado, said Humboldt County Emergency Management Director Doug Wood. The tornado rendered 30 of Bradgate's 40 homes uninhabitable, he said.
The Meier family's possessions — roller skates, dolls and Christmas stockings — lay in heaps on the basement floor amid shattered cement foundation blocks. Marina Meier stood next to the wrecked home clutching a picture of her 5-year-old daughter.
"They found it on the other side of town," said Meier, her face sunburned and her clothes coated in dirt and sawdust. "It might be the only picture we have of her now."
Meier filled out Red Cross (search) vouchers for food and new clothes.
"I guess we're starting over," she said.
Sheriff Dean Kruger was hit in the leg with a piece of wood after he got out of his truck during the tornado. "I just laid down in the ditch and watched the wood and timber fly past," Kruger said.
Debris littered a small park Saturday, including a mattress, a kitchen sink and a toilet. A pair of men's overalls hung from a tree branch.
Helping with the cleanup Saturday were the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Iowa National Guard. Hundreds of volunteers also helped cut trees with chainsaws and put wood and metal debris in piles to carry out of town.
While Iowa was hardest hit, Friday's severe weather knocked out power through parts of West Virginia, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Michigan authorities blamed three deaths on the storm — all due to trees falling on cars Friday.
Flooding forced the evacuation of dozens of homes along the Ohio border northwest of Pittsburgh; some Darlington, Pa., residents had to be rescued by boat.
Severe thunderstorms swept across much of West Virginia, from the Ohio River to the Virginia border; several funnel clouds were sighted but no tornadoes were confirmed.
Hundreds of thousands of customers lost power after the storms, and many were not expected to get it back until Sunday. About 153,000 customers in Michigan were still without electricity Saturday afternoon; 140,000 in Ohio; 44,000 in West Virginia; and 12,000 in Pennsylvania.
At least two tornadoes touched down in central Nebraska, damaging two farmsteads, but no injuries were reported, the National Weather Service said. The storm in Nebraska also dropped hail the size of golf balls.
In Ohio, two men hit by lightning in separate strikes were taken to hospitals with injuries that were not life-threatening, said Jeff Walker, director of the Licking County Emergency Management Agency.