Devastating tornadoes rip through Nebraska and Iowa, sending crews searching flattened homes as storm threat continues

CNNDestructive tornadoes gutted homes as they plowed through Nebraska and Iowa, and the dangerous storm threat could escalate Saturday as tornado-spawning storms pose a risk from Michigan to Texas.

The region of Elkhorn in Omaha, Nebraska, is one of the hardest-hit areas after severe storms began barreling through parts of the Plains and South early Friday afternoon. A powerful tornado left behind flattened homes, which first responders were searching for anyone trapped or injured, local authorities announced at a Friday news conference.

Meanwhile in nearby Iowa, a large tornado was reported in the small city of Minden, according to the National Weather Service. Footage obtained by CNN shows the devastation of mangled structures and widespread debris.

The severe weather threat is expected to continue through Sunday, with Saturday possibly being the most dangerous day. Strong tornadoes are possible from Michigan to Texas, including in Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Dallas, Milwaukee, Chicago and Austin.

Here’s what we know:

• Two people in Omaha received medical treatment for minor injuries after a tornado swept through the Elkhorn area Friday. “We think injuries were so little because the warning systems in the City of Omaha and Douglas County were highly effective,” Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said. “We were not hit with a sudden storm. People had warned of this, which saved lives, in our opinion.”

• Emergency officials in Nebraska’s Shelby and Douglas counties said there were no reports of injuries there after several tornadoes hit their communities Friday. However, the officials reported the storms inflicted significant property damage, and residents have been displaced.


• On the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska, a tornado tore the roofs off homes and crossed part of I-80 in the process. Multiple cars of a train derailed near Waverly after it was struck by a tornado, according to a railway spokesperson.

• In response to the tornado that tore through Minden, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation to support storm recovery efforts in Pottawattamie County.

• On Friday afternoon, at least two tornadoes were observed in Texas afternoon. Video posted to social media showed an apparent twister churning across a large field northeast of Waco.

• There were more than 60 tornado reports Friday across at least five states, many of which have been confirmed by the weather service or through footage from storm chasers.

What to expect Saturday

More than 50 million people are under the threat of severe weather Saturday from the Southern Plains into the Great Lakes region.

“A complex but potentially significant severe weather episode is expected on Saturday,” the Weather Prediction Center said Friday.

The most significant storms are possible starting in the afternoon in parts of the southern and central Plains, where a Level 3 of 5 risk of severe thunderstorms is in place. Widespread damaging wind gusts, hail up to the size of baseballs and strong tornadoes are the storms’ main hazards.

The tornado threat could ramp up considerably through the late afternoon and evening hours with “multiple strong tornadoes” possible, according to the prediction center.

Damaging storms are possible outside of the greatest risk area in a huge area of the country from the Great Lakes to southern Texas.

Rain could also be a culprit Saturday.

Some areas could see nearly 5 inches of rain in a short period and dangerous flash flooding could result. A handful of locations caught under multiple rounds of gushing rainfall could have totals approach the 8-inch mark.

A Level 3 of 4 risk of excessive rainfall is in place for a large portion of Oklahoma – including Oklahoma City and Tulsa – and smaller parts of Kansas and Texas. Intense rainfall could force streams to overflow their banks and flood roadways.

Sunday could still see storms

Damaging storms also are possible from Texas to Wisconsin Sunday. But the exact timing, extent and strength of these storms will depend heavily on Saturday night’s storms.

Notably, areas from northeastern Texas to southern Iowa and western Illinois face the greatest chance for damaging storms that could bring strong wind gusts and large hail. An isolated tornado or two is also possible.

Heavy, flooding rainfall is possible, especially in parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley.

CNN’s Mary Gilbert, Sharif Paget, Sarah Dewberry, Jamiel Lynch, Raja Rezek and CNN Meteorologists Sara Tonks, Brandon Miller and Robert Shackelford contributed to this report.