NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Powerful storms that raked across several states in the eastern U.S., including Indiana, on Sunday destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, but there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said. The storm also brought hail to Indiana and Michigan, with more than 200,000 in the Wolverine State left without electrical power.
Spokeswoman Gina Breeding with the office of emergency management in east Tennessee's Claiborne County told The Associated Press that officers searched ruined homes Sunday night in one particularly hard-hit community, Speedwell. She said the county sheriff and his wife safely took refuge in their basement when storms hit and destroyed their home.
"He and his wife are both OK," Breeding said by telephone, adding law enforcement officials had set up a command post for operations and a school was opened for anyone left homeless.
Later Sunday night, she said a second shelter in the area had been opened but that authorities still had no reports of injuries or deaths.
Breeding said the county emergency management and homeland security office hadn't confirmed whether the destruction was the result of a possible tornado, but noted there were high winds, lightning and heavy thunderstorms in the region Sunday.
"There are power lines and trees down," she said by phone.
Dean Flener of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency in Nashville said the storms roughed up at least seven of the 36 counties in east Tennessee, dropping trees, power lines and even large hail in spots.
Locally on Sunday, Leo-Cedarville reported a downed tree on Indiana 1 and Tonkel Road, as well as debris on the road. A semi trailer flipped over in Van Wert, Ohio, while Wolf Lake in Noble County reported downed tree limbs and power outages along U.S. 33. Columbia City also reported a downed power line along U.S. 33 near Churubusco. Penny-size hail was reported in Leo-Cedarville, Huntington, Grabill, Etna, Albion and North Webster. Bluffton experienced 55 mph winds at about 3:50 p.m.
Elsewhere in Tennessee, news photographs showed a covered walkway that had collapsed in the Tennessee City of Knoxville and there were reports of damage near Kingston and other communities.
"I do know Tennessee has deployed some Tennessee Highway Patrol strike teams in some counties in east Tennessee, closing off roads," Flener told AP by phone. "You don't want people wandering into areas with damage."
Terry Getz, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Morristown, Tenn., office said forecasters would be trying to determine whether a tornado might have been responsible for the worst damage, though nothing had been confirmed yet. He said that the radar showed strong indications of a tornado and that the weather service would survey the area today.
"Even though we don't have a lot of information right now, I'm sure tomorrow people will get out and see damage," he said.
Severe thunderstorms that hit Michigan's Lower Peninsula, packed winds of up to 50 miles per hour that knocked down trees, ripped roofs off buildings and blacked out more than 200,000 homes and businesses.
The National Weather Service says a trained spotter reports 1.75-inch hail struck Oakland County's White Lake Township in suburban Detroit on Sunday afternoon. It reports 50 mph wind gusts in neighboring Macomb County.
The weather service says the storm toppled trees and blew the roof off a barn north-northeast of Chesaning in Saginaw County and damaged 80 percent of the units at a mobile home park in Oakland County's Highland Township.