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Tornado Swarm Kills Four in Three States

By COLLEEN SLEVIN
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 29, 2007; 11:17 PM

HOLLY, Colo. -- A massive spring storm spawned dozens of tornadoes from the Rockies to the Plains, killing at least four people in three states, including a woman who was flung into a tree by a twister as wide as two football fields.

Sixty-five tornadoes were reported late Wednesday in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska, the National Weather Service said. The storms continued Thursday afternoon, with a tornado injuring at least five people in Oklahoma City.

In Colorado, Rosemary Rosales, 28, died after being found critically injured in the tree after the huge tornado destroyed several homes and damaged dozens of others in Holly, a town of 1,000 people about 235 miles southeast of Denver near the Kansas line.

"All they heard was this big ugly noise, and they didn't have no time to run," said Victoria Rosales, the victim's sister.

In Oklahoma, a twister Wednesday killed a couple as it blew their home to pieces. In Texas, a man was found dead in the tangled debris of his trailer.

At least one person was killed and seven were hurt when a tornado skipped for a mile and a half through Holly and surrounding areas. Five buildings were destroyed and more than 50 were damaged, said Chris Sorenson, a spokesman for the emergency response team.

Victoria Rosales said her sister and the woman's husband, Gustavo Puga, were in the kitchen and their 3-year-old daughter, Noelia, was sleeping in a front room when the tornado hit.

Puga was holding onto the little girl when rescuers found them, said his brother, Oscar Puga. The two were in fair condition Thursday at a Colorado Springs hospital.

As residents sifted through their scattered belongings, the streets were littered with utility poles, power lines, tree limbs and other debris. One woman whose house was destroyed wept as she searched for a wedding ring.

"Homes were there and now they're gone," Prowers County Administrator Linda Fairbairn said. "Many, if not all, the structures in town suffered some degree of damage."

In Oklahoma, Vance and Barbra Woodbury were killed when the storm blew apart their home near the Panhandle community of Elmwood.

"We set off the tornado sirens, but they live too far out to hear them," said Dixie Parker, Beaver County's emergency management director. "The house was just flattened, the out buildings are gone. All that's left is debris."

Tornadoes in the Texas Panhandle uprooted trees, overturned trucks and injured at least three people. The region also got baseball-sized hail. Monte Ford, 53, was killed near Amarillo when he was thrown about 15 feet from his oilfield trailer, which was rolled by the wind.

On Thursday, flooding plagued parts of the state, with traffic accidents and high-water rescues reported.

Oklahomans on Thursday surveyed damage from that day's storm, which critically injured two people and heavily damaged at least 50 buildings in the northwestern part of the state's largest city.

"An 18-wheeler was blown over, eight to 10 cars are in a ditch, power poles are broken, trees are overturned, there's heavy roof damage, outbuildings destroyed," said Ty Judd, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "We can safely call that a tornado."

People in Oklahoma were bracing for more severe weather, as watches and warnings continued into the evening.

The Colorado tornado killed dozens of cattle and injured others so severely they have to be shot.

"It's better than letting them suffer," said rancher Bill Lowe, who had about 800 cattle in his feedlot when the tornado hit. He lost at least 35 animals in the storm.

Just three months ago, back-to-back blizzards and subzero temperatures killed more than 10,000 livestock on farms across southeastern Colorado.

Neighbors and residents from surrounding towns comforted each other Thursday as they began cleaning up from Colorado's first fatal tornado since 1960.

"They're mostly hugging one another, asking, 'Is your house standing, is your family OK?'" said Betty Vipman, who manages JR's Country Store and Video.

The same storm system dumped snow on Wyoming, causing highway pileups and closing large portions of three interstates. In the Wind River Mountains, 58 inches of snow had fallen by Thursday morning.

At least 800 homes in north-central Wyoming were without heat and electricity Thursday, down from about 2,200 the day before.

___

Associated Press writer Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Associated Press