At least two people have been killed by a severe round of storms in Cole, Oklahoma, a local official told CNN.
And the death toll could possibly climb as crews in the small town of about 600 people continue their search and rescue efforts, Deputy Scott Gibbons at the McClain County Sheriff’s Office added. First responders are also dealing with multiple reports of people trapped inside shelters.
More than half a dozen confirmed tornadoes struck the US across three states Wednesday evening as powerful storms battered communities with dangerously large hail and damaging winds.
The storms were reported across Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa, with Oklahoma appearing to be the hardest-hit with at least four confirmed tornadoes rolling through the state and knocking out power for about 20,000 homes and businesses.
The most significant tornado rolled through Cole, Oklahoma, a town home to more 600 people about 30 miles south of Oklahoma City.
Emergency officials in McClain County – where hard-hit Cole is located – said crews were responding to injuries and some people were trapped in shelters, according to a Facebook post.
About 60 miles east of Cole, a large and very dangerous tornado was confirmed in Shawnee, a city of about 30,000 people in Pottawatomie County. The storm was moving erratically north of the city around 10 p.m. CT, the National Weather Service in Norman said.
The Pottawatomie County emergency management agency warned residents not to leave their homes to observe the damage to their hometowns, noting that hinders response efforts.
“There is tremendous amounts of ponding on areas storms have come through so please do not drive through the water!” the agency said.
Similarly, officials at Oklahoma Baptist University – located in Shawnee – urged students not to be outdoors.
“Due to the damage inflicted on campus from the tornadoes, remain inside if safe and do no wander around campus. Administration is assessing the situation and will follow up with next steps,” the university said on social media.
At least 14 tornado reports in 3 states
In addition to the reports of tornadoes in Oklahoma, four tornado reports were recorded Iowa and three in Kansas – for a total of at least 14 tornado reports in the US on Wednesday.
Of those reports, two tornadoes in Iowa and one in Kansas have been confirmed.
Earlier Wednesday, a tornado watch was in effect for western Iowa, southeastern Nebraska, northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
The prediction center warned that “severe thunderstorms with the potential for very large hail, a risk for a couple of tornadoes, and severe gusts will be possible late Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday night across parts of the central states.”
Wednesday’s extreme weather was also affecting other parts of Oklahoma.
“Severe thunderstorms continue to move northeast into Osage, Pawnee, Creek, and Okfuskee counties this evening. These storms are capable of producing large hail and damaging winds, with a limited tornado potential, along west of Hwy 75,” the National Weather Service in Tulsa said.
On Thursday, the severe storms threat is expected to shift to the east to include eastern Texas, northwestern Louisiana, southeastern Oklahoma, southeastern Missouri and much of Arkansas.
CNN’s Joe Sutton, Paradise Afshar, Amanda Jackson and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.
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