Omaha, NE (AP by Jessica Fargen)--Deb Bertrand couldn't see the carpet in the tornado-ravaged home through the dirt blanketing the floor. In the distance, a splintered white farmhouse appeared dark brown.
``It broke your heart to see the destruction that happened so quickly and so completely,'' said Bertrand, the emergency management director in western Nebraska's Lincoln County.
One farmhouse was leveled and five others were severely damaged by a tornado that swept across farmland near Maxwell, 13 miles east of North Platte. Two people, Sue Taylor and her daughter Heather, suffered minor injuries.
Sue Taylor said she looked out a window Wednesday afternoon and saw the twister at the end of the driveway.
``It was a huge, boiling mass of absolute black,'' she told the North Platte Telegraph. ``I could see it swirling and moving right toward us, fast.''
The tornado was part of a storm pattern that stretched from the Colorado mountains to western New York early today. Snow closed roads in Colorado and Wyoming, while wind and heavy rain battered the Midwest.
Several states reported broken tree limbs, power outages and flooded streams. The road closures included heavily traveled Interstate 80 between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Laramie, where up to a foot of snow was forecast by tonight, and Loveland Pass in the mountains 70 miles west of Denver. The pass won't be open until experts check for snowslides.
``Can you believe that? Avalanche control on the 18th of May,'' said Claudia Lamb, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
More than a dozen tornadoes were reported across Colorado's northeastern plains, but no injuries were reported. In Greeley, winds uprooted a 60-foot pine and sent it crashing into a van that University of Northern Colorado student Darren Palladino had borrowed from his parents to take his belongings home to Denver.
``My parents weren't too happy when I called them,'' he said.
In Wisconsin, heavy rain produced flash flooding, swamping streets in La Cross. In Vernon County, along the Minnesota and Iowa state lines, authorities fearing high water moved 300 schoolchildren who were camping at Sidie Hollow Park.
The children, who attend various Waldorf schools throughout Wisconsin, were taken to a nearby school to spend the night, said Shane Nottestad, a sheriff's dispatcher.
Deep drifts of hail piled up in Kasota, Minn.
``It was just like a blizzard. It kept going and going and going. First nickel-sized, then pea-sized,'' said Dale Larson of Door Engineering and Manufacturing.
A flash flood warning was issued for parts of Minnesota after creeks and streams rose 2 feet or more Wednesday afternoon. Mudslides also were reported in the steeper terrain closer to the Mississippi River.
In South Dakota, winds gusting to 70 mph snapped limbs and trees, downed power lines and tore part of the roof off a hotel in Brookings. A trampoline and two boats up for sale were blown across a parking lot.
``It was a surprise to us to see something like a boat blowing across the road because we didn't really see much wind here,'' said Chris Quinn who watched as the storm rolled into town. ``But when we saw that trampoline coming across the lot, we knew it was pretty strong wind.''
Bertrand was left to survey the damage to her neighbors in Nebraska. Farm equipment, vehicles, livestock and buildings were destroyed.
``This is stunning,'' Bertrand said. ``Every single family that I stopped and talked to was utterly in shock and trying to carry on.''
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press