Deadly tornadoes rake Midwest

Unusually early twister outbreak hits WI, MO communities hard.

BALTIMORE | January 8, 2008

"I have never, ever seen damage like this"

—David Beth, Kenosha County WI sheriff

An unusual outbreak of early January tornadoes flattened houses, derailed a freight train and knocked out power late Monday as the weather front that dropped feet of snow in the West moved into the Midwest. It was the first time in nearly 60 years that a tornado had been reported during January in northern Illinois.

At least two people were killed in the outbreak of more than 30 twisters. More severe weather is predicted for Tuesday.

On Tuesday, emergency officials were picking through the rubble of a trailer park in Missouri and southern Wisconsin where emergency officials said the homes of as many as 100 residents may have been destroyed, according to Sheriff David Beth of Kenosha County in Wisconsin. Damage from the Kenosha storm was reported to be about a half-mile wide.

"I have never, ever seen damage like this," said Beth, who has lived in the county for more than 25 years. Volunteers from the Salvation Army were providing assistance to storm survivors.

Lori Getter of the Wisconsin office of Emergency Management said tornadoes were also reported in Wheatland and Twin Lakes. The derailment of a Union Pacific train in McHenry County prompted a HAZMAT call for a leaking railcar and the evacuation of nearly 500 nearby residents.

According to local police in the village of Poplar Grove, IL, at least three people were injured and seven homes destroyed when a twister struck just north of the town.

A tornado also hit a trailer park in Green County, MO, Monday evening near Monett where a resident was killed when her trailer was destroyed.

In Colorado, Monday blizzard-like conditions continued to pound La Plata County where the county's Emergency Coordination Center was activated Monday night. Nearly 3,000 homes were without power and several highways have been closed in the region.

Meanwhile in Oklahoma firefighters responded to a half dozen wildfires. Fire officials have suggested this year may be worse for wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma than in previous years.

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