BLENCOE, Iowa - A tornado slammed into a Boy Scout camp in the remote hills of the western part of the state yesterday, killing at least four people and injuring 40, most of whom were on a hike when the twister struck.
All of the children had been accounted for late last night, after rescuers cut their way through downed trees and debris to reach them, said Russ Lewrenson of the Mondamin Fire Department.
"There had to be sawing and stuff to get to the scene," Lewrenson said.
Julie Tack, Iowa Homeland Security spokeswoman, said the camp near Little Sioux was covered with debris and downed trees after the tornado hit about 7 p.m.
There were 93 campers and 25 staff members at the camp, Tack said.
The campers were between 13 and 18 years old and were attending a leadership training camp. "They were considered some of the best in the area," Tack said.
At least 40 people who were injured in the storm were being taken to area hospitals, authorities said.
"All of the buildings are gone; most of the tents are gone; most of the trees are destroyed," Lloyd Roitstein, president of the Boy Scouts of Mid-America Council, told CNN. "You've got 1,800 acres of property that are destroyed right now."
Gayle Jessen of Fremont, Neb., said her 19-year-old son, Zach, is a staff leader at the camp. He called his parents to say he had a bruise on an arm and was being treated at a hospital.
"I'm so relieved my son is OK," Jessen said. She said her husband was headed to the hospital to pick up their son.
David Hunt, chairman of the Mid-America Boy Scout Council's Goldenrod District, which covers several eastern Nebraska counties, said he believed the youths were from eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.
The 1,800-acre ranch is about 40 miles north of Omaha. Its amenities include hiking trails through narrow valleys and over steep hills, a 15-acre lake, and a rifle range.
The tornado touched down as Iowa's eastern half grappled with flooding in several of its major cities. The storm threatened to stretch Iowa's emergency response teams even further.
Tack said officials were confident that the state's emergency response teams could handle the crisis because western Iowa had been largely unaffected by the recent flooding.
Tornadoes also touched down in southern Minnesota and eastern Nebraska.
A tornado ripped a house from its foundation, leaving a bathtub protruding from a back wall near Fulda, Minn., 140 miles southwest of Minneapolis. A woman inside at the time suffered a knee injury.
Another struck a farm near Springfield, Minn., causing extensive damage to outbuildings.
Other tornadoes in Minnesota damaged trees, pushed a manufactured house off its foundation, and knocked down outbuildings.
There were no immediate reports of damage from the Nebraska twisters, though a lightning strike knocked out radar at the National Weather Service's office in Valley, about 30 miles northwest of Omaha.
From Wisconsin to Missouri, officials in the storm-ravaged Midwest yesterday were fortifying levees with sandbags, watching weakened dams, and rescuing residents from rising water.
Additional storms were expected in the area.
Along the Mississippi River in Missouri and Illinois, the National Weather Service was predicting the worst flooding in 15 years. Outlying areas could be inundated, but most of the towns are protected by levees, officials said.
On the East Coast, officials reported that the weekend heat wave had claimed 17 lives, most of them elderly..