Weather Service: Damaging tornado hit SD town

Associated Press
U.S. Central States Brace For Severe Storms, Possible Tornadoes
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Weather forecasters said, the central United States braced for severe thunderstorms that could produce tornadoes and baseball-sized hail on Tuesday. aid Forecaster Bill Bunting of the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said strong morning thunderstorms across southwestern South Dakota were expected to increase in number and severity throughout the day in central and eastern Nebraska, northern Missouri, southern Iowa and southwestern Illinois. Bunting said the strongest storms could produce tornadoes, with the possibility of a tornado rated EF-2 or higher, with winds peaking at 135 mph or more.

WESSINGTON SPRINGS, S.D. (AP) — A tornado hit a small town in central South Dakota Wednesday night, damaging homes and businesses and injuring at least one person, according to the National Weather Service and a hospital spokeswoman.

National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Heitkamp said law enforcement in Wessington Springs reported the tornado went right "through the heart of town." It hit just before 8 p.m.

Lindsey Meyers, spokeswoman for Avera Health, which operates the hospital in Wessington Springs, said one patient in good condition is being treated as a result of the tornado.

Meyers said the hospital only has some broken windows and is operating on backup power. She said the hospital is fully staffed with EMTs, physicians and some advanced practitioners.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard tweeted that he has deployed 100 South Dakota National Guard soldiers and equipment to Wessington Springs and the Red Cross is also on the way.

Daugaard told KELO-TV he was also headed to Wessington Springs. He said the tornado went through town from southwest to northeast and homes and businesses were destroyed. KELO-TV reported a car dealership was among the businesses destroyed.

Jaime Hoefert, of Wessington Springs, told KELO-TV she saw the tornado move over hills and through the town.

"We did see at least three homes destroyed with lots of structural damage around that area on the south side of town," Hoefert said.

Multiple calls to the Jerauld County Sheriff's Office rang busy, and calls to the county emergency management office went unanswered.

Confirmed tornadoes also touched down nearby, outside the towns of Woonsocket and Alpena, Heitkamp said.

Wessington Springs is about 125 miles northwest of Sioux Falls and has a population of about 1,000.

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