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Deadly tornadoes claim lives in Wisconsin, Oklahoma

A deadly tornado struck western Wisconsin on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Courtesy photo / Barron County Sheriff's Department

CHETEK, Wis. — Two people died in Wisconsin and Oklahoma after severe storms ravaged the Central United States Tuesday, May 16. The National Weather Service logged nearly 300 reports of severe weather from Texas to the Great Lakes.

The Weather Channel's severe weather expert Greg Forbes estimates 17 tornadoes touched down in five states.

One person died and 25 people were injured after a twister tore through the small town of Chetek in western Wisconsin around 5:45 p.m. local time Tuesday, causing massive wreckage. "(A)t least one entire block of trailers is gone," reported Minneapolis television affiliate WCCO. "In aerial footage of the damage, it's difficult to tell where structures once stood."

The Barron County Sheriff’s Department said on its Facebook page that many of the 50 to 60 mobile homes are destroyed. A 46-year0old man was killed while 17 of the people injured were transported to area hospitals.

Another person died in Elk City, Okla., from a devastating tornado that ripped through the town. The twister demolished 40 homes and heavily damaged 50 to 75 more, according to the Elk City Fire Department. Cars were tossed around like toys.

The storms erupted as a disturbance ejected out of the Southwest United States into the Southern Plains. They formed in the transition zone between record-challenging warmth in the eastern United States and a deep pool of cold air in the Rocky Mountains.

The storms not only spawned tornadoes, but generated hail the size of baseballs and softballs.

The two tornado deaths from Tuesday's storms bring the nation's 2017 total up to 34 fatalities, more than 2016 in its entirety (18) and almost as many as 2015 (36), according to Patrick Marsh, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.

Another round of strong to severe storms is predicted Wednesday, focused on the Midwest. The Storm Prediction Center has placed much of Iowa in its enhanced risk zone for severe storms.

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