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First tornadoes in 18 years hit Sioux Falls, leaving destruction in their wake

ABC News logo ABC News 9/11/2019

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Video by Associated Press

Several powerful tornadoes have left a trail of destruction in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, toppling trees, knocking out power to thousands and seriously damaging both area hospitals, officials said.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported after the overnight twisters, Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said Wednesday. Thirty-seven structures collapsed or have major integrity issues, according to officials.

Three EF-2 tornadoes were confirmed to have touched down in Sioux Falls -- the first confirmed tornadoes in the city since June 2001.

The Avera Behavioral Health Hospital, one of the damaged hospitals, said all patients were safe and some were moved to other facilities, according to a hospital spokesperson. Several people there suffered minor injuries from the roof collapsing, said the hospital's president and CEO, David Flicek.

(MORE: Tornado survival 101: Tips to stay safe during a tornado)

With so much debris on the roads, a "No Travel Advisory" was issued in the city. The advisory was lifted at 8 a.m. Wednesday but police urged drivers to use caution "as there may be areas still impacted, unreported downed power lines, tree debris, or other road hazards."

The Avera dome shows damage after a devastating tornado hit in Sioux Falls, S.D., Sept. 11, 2019.

The Avera dome shows damage after a devastating tornado hit in Sioux Falls, S.D., Sept. 11, 2019.
© Argus Leader via USA Today Network
Four tornadoes were reported in South Dakota -- three of which have been confirmed -- and seven were reported in Wyoming as severe weather struck the region Tuesday night.

Julie Mericle "was laying in bed watching TV and it sounded like a freight train over the house," she told Sioux Falls ABC affiliate KSFY.

(MORE: Man recalls terrifying tornado that took his wife's life)

"So I got up, dashed into my closet and it felt like the roof was going to come off," Mericle said, adding that a tree fell on her house.

The tornado warnings began at 11:00 p.m. CST, officials said. Only some of the sirens in town were activated, which the mayor attributed to human error.

And the threat is not over. On Wednesday night, severe thunderstorms are possible from Wyoming to Michigan -- including Sioux Falls.

The main threats will be strong wind gusts and large hail. A few tornadoes are also possible, particularly in western Nebraska.

Stronger, slow-moving thunderstorms can bring torrential rain which could trigger flash flooding. Flash flood watches are in effect from Nebraska to Sioux Falls to southwestern Minnesota.

ABC News' Will Gretsky and Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.

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