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Tornado leaves destruction in Sioux Falls, damaging buildings and hospitals

September 11, 2019 - 9:02 am
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(SIOUX FALLS, S.D.) -- A powerful tornado has left a trail of destruction in Sioux Falls, S.D., toppling trees, knocking out power and seriously damaging both area hospitals, the mayor said.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported after the overnight twister, Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said Wednesday morning. Thirty-seven structures collapsed or have major integrity issues, according to officials.

The Avera Behavioral Health Hospital, one of the damaged hospitals, said all patients were safe and some were moved to other facilities, according to a hospital spokesperson.

With so much debris on the roads, a "No Travel Advisory" was issued in the city. The advisory was lifted at 8 a.m. Wednesday but police urged drivers to use caution "as there may be areas still impacted, unreported downed power lines, tree debris, or other road hazards."

A total of nine tornadoes were reported in Wyoming and two in South Dakota as severe weather struck the region Tuesday night.

Winds were over 100 mph in some areas, said Todd Heitkamp, meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

Julie Mericle "was laying in bed watching TV and it sounded like a freight train over the house," she told Sioux Falls ABC affiliate KSFY.

"So I got up, dashed into my closet and it felt like the roof was going to come off," Mericle said, adding that a tree fell on her house.

The tornado warnings began at 11:00 p.m. CST, officials said. Some of the sirens were activated but not all sirens sounded, which is now being investigated, officials said.

Some power has been restored in the area Wednesday morning but it's expected to take most of the day to get power back throughout the city, a community manager said.

Schools began on a two-hour delay Wednesday, the mayor said.

And the threat is not over. On Wednesday, severe weather threats are expanding east and south, now reaching from Wyoming to Wisconsin. The biggest threats will be damaging winds, huge hail and possibly tornadoes.

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