A tornado ripped through a Philadelphia suburban township Thursday, injuring five people, heavily damaging a car dealership, flipping vehicles and striking a trailer park, police said.
The injuries were described as minor, but the toll could have been far worse from the storm that struck Bensalem Township shortly after 7 p.m., Bensalem Public Safety Director Fred Harran said.
“If this storm would have been two hours earlier, this would be a different report,” Harran said. “Those places would have been packed with people.”
Four people were injured at the car dealership, and the fifth was wounded at another location.
Forecasters had warned of tornadoes in Pennsylvania and issued urgent warnings to parts of New Jersey, which included telling people to seek shelter immediately, as the severe weather swept through the region Thursday.
One tornado touched down in Bensalem Township, the National Weather Service said, and a second one is suspected of touching down in upper Bucks County.
There were six reports of tornadoes in Ohio and Pennsylvania on Thursday, not all of which have been confirmed, according to the weather service.
The agency said it will be doing several storm surveys, which can determine if a tornado hit and if so what its wind speed and rating was.
In Bensalem Township, which is in Bucks County around 15 miles northeast of downtown Philadelphia, the damage at the car dealership “looked like a TV show,” Harran told reporters.
“It just looked like a bomb went off. I mean, it’s gone,” he said, adding, “I’ve been doing this for 34 years. I never saw that kind of devastation from a storm.”
During a tornado warning for New Jersey that included Trenton and Princeton, forecasters warned people to seek shelter immediately, warning of a “particularly dangerous situation.”
Newark Liberty International Airport said weather conditions disrupted flights.
In Wisconsin, four tornadoes touched down west of Milwaukee early Thursday, officials said.
Storms caused damage across a large swath of the state, knocking down trees and power lines.
The Wisconsin State Patrol said a man died after his car struck a tree and a power line downed by the storm in Fond du Lac County on Thursday morning, NBC affiliate WTMJ of Milwaukee reported.
Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency, which allows for aid.
“Last night’s storms affected communities from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan, leaving many regions with widespread damage,” Evers said in a statement Thursday.
The National Weather Service said Thursday that storm surveys confirmed that four tornadoes touched down west of Milwaukee, the first of which struck at around 1 a.m.
Damage consistent with an EF1 rated tornado occurred near Concord, an EF0 tornado struck an intersection south of Sunset Park, an EF0 tornado hit near Watertown, and an EF1 tornado with winds of around 100 mph traveled for a little over 2 miles south of Dousman, officials said.