By Jueseppi B.
Tornadoes, Damaging Storms Sweep Through Midwest
By DON BABWIN Associated Press
Dozens of tornadoes and intense thunderstorms swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities, killing at least three people and prompting officials at Chicago’s Soldier Field to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game.
“The whole neighborhood’s gone. The wall of my fireplace is all that is left of my house,” said Michael Perdun, speaking by cellphone from the hard-hit town of Washington, where he said his neighborhood was wiped out in a matter of seconds.
“I stepped outside and I heard it coming. My daughter was already in the basement, so I ran downstairs and grabbed her, crouched in the laundry room and all of a sudden I could see daylight up the stairway and my house was gone.”
An elderly man and his sister were killed when a tornado hit their home around noon in the rural community of New Minden, said Mark Styninger, the coroner of Washington County in southern Illinois. A third person died in Washington, said Melanie Arnold of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. She did not provide details.
By mid-afternoon, with communications difficult and many roads impassable, it remained unclear how many people were killed or hurt by the string of tornadoes. In a news release, the Illinois National Guard said it had dispatched 10 firefighters and three vehicles to Washington to assist with immediate search and recovery operations.
“I went over there immediately after the tornado, walking through the neighborhoods, and I couldn’t even tell what street I was on,” Washington Alderman Tyler Gee told WLS-TV.
“Just completely flattened — some of the neighborhoods here in town, hundreds of homes.”
Steve Brewer, chief operating officer at Methodist Medical Center of Illinois in Peoria, said 14 people had come to the hospital seeking treatment for minor injuries, while another Washington area hospital had received about 15 patients.
He said doctors and other medical professionals were setting up a temporary emergency care center to treat the injured before transporting them to hospitals, while others were dispatched to search through the rubble for survivors.
About 90 minutes after the tornado destroyed homes in Washington, the storm darkened downtown Chicago. As the rain and high winds slammed into the area, officials at Soldier Field evacuated the stands and ordered the Bears and Baltimore Ravens off the field. Fans were allowed back to their seats shortly after 2 p.m., and the game resumed after about a two-hour delay.
Earlier, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications had issued a warning to fans, urging them “to take extra precautions and … appropriate measures to ensure their personal safety.” NFL games in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh also could be affected by the rough weather.
Just how many tornadoes hit was unclear Sunday afternoon. According to the National Weather Services’ website, a total of 65 tornadoes had struck, the bulk of them in Illinois. But meteorologist Matt Friedlein said the total might fall because emergency workers, tornado spotters and others often report the same tornado.
Still, when the weather service was issuing its warning that severe weather was bearing down on the Midwest, officials said the last such warning issued so late in the season in November came in 2005, and the result was an outbreak of 49 tornadoes.
A line of storms moving through the country’s midsection has already produced a few damaging tornadoes and the National Weather Service predicts that major severe weather could break out as the system moves east.
“Numerous fast-moving thunderstorms, capable of producing strong tornadoes along with widespread damaging winds and large hail, will move across portions of the middle Mississippi and Ohio Valley region and the southern Great Lakes region for the remainder of today into this evening,” the Weather Service reports.
In Illinois, a series of tornadoes raked the outskirts of Peoria. Washington, Ill. has so far been the hardest hit with reports of entire blocks of homes leveled.
Images show a landscape of fallen trees and homes reduced to rubble.
The Peoria Journal Star reports that dozens are injured and the national guard and rescue teams are on the scene. Jonathon E. Monken, the director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, tells CNN that the storms have killed at least two people in his state.
We’ll update this post through the afternoon, so hit refresh to see the latest.
Update at 4:47 p.m. ET. 109 Tornado Warnings:
Just how large and wide has this storm system cut? Over the course of the day, the Weather Service has issued 109 tornado warnings, which should give you an idea.
Update at 4:02 p.m. ET. Entire Blocks Destroyed:
Alex Rusciano, of NPR member station WCBU, tells our Newscast unit that the tornado that tore through Washington, Ill., destroyed entire blocks of homes.
Rusciano spoke to Susan Newton, who lives in one of the hard-hit neighborhoods.
“We have neighbors that have lost their entire home, and last night we were at a dinner party at friends of ours, and their home is gone,” Newton told him. “Gone. There’s nothing left.”
Update at 3:21 p.m. ET. Game Will Resume:
The game at soldier field will resume in a few minutes. The National Weather Service Chicago says that there are no tornado or severe weather warnings in effect, but the potential for hazardous weather still exists.
Update at 2:52 p.m. ET. Game At Soldier Field Suspended:
With the line of severe weather about to move through Chicago, the game at Soldier Field between the Bears and the Ravens, has been suspended. The fans at the stadium were told to leave the seating area and move to a covered concourse.
“The National Weather Service reports that a confirmed tornado was on the ground near Coal City on the Grundy County-Will County line. It was moving northeast at 55 m.p.h. That tornado, described as ‘large and extremely dangerous,’ was also seen near Wilmington.
“The agency described the situation as ‘particularly dangerous’ and ‘life threatening’ while asking people to ‘take cover now.’
“‘We’re very concerned,’ weather service meteorologist Gino Izzi said earlier. ‘We’re definitely stressing that this is not your run-of-the-mill tornado watch.’”
Update at 2:48 p.m. ET. The Damage Near Peoria:
Marcus Bailey, the chief meteorologist for WMBD-TV in central Illinois, has been tweeting about the situation around Peoria.
He tweeted this photograph of Washington, Ill., just across the lake from Peoria.
The Peoria Journal Star reports that a couple of tornadoes have touched down. One in Washington, the other in Pekin. It’s unclear what the extend of the damage is, but the paper reports:
“Authorities erected a shelter at Cherry Tree Shopping Center, and those injured were being taken to the Washington Fire Department.
“Georgetown Commons apartment complex was severely damaged and other areas were hit hard. Authorities were doing a house-to-house search.
“U.S. Route 24 at Cummings Lane was being shut down. And other parts of the city were being evacuated.”
(Reuters) – A fast-moving storm system triggered multiple tornadoes in Illinois and Indiana on Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring about 40 and flattening large parts of the city of Washington, Illinois as it crashed across the Midwest, officials said.
The storm created tornadoes in Bone Gap and Miller City, Illinois, in Mount Carmel, Noblesville and Vincennes in Indiana, and in Paducah, Kentucky, the National Weather Service said.
The storm also forced the Chicago Bears to halt their game against the Baltimore Ravens and encourage fans at Soldier Field to seek shelter as the storm roared in. Chicago’s two major airports also briefly stopped traffic with the metropolitan area was under a tornado watch.
The city of Washington, Illinois, was hit hard by what the National Weather Service called a “large and extremely dangerous” tornado.
Thirty-one people injured by the storm that hit Washington were being treated at St. Francis Medical Center, one of the main hospitals in nearby Peoria, according to hospital spokeswoman Amy Paul. Eight had traumatic injuries.
Two people were killed in Washington County, Illinois, about 200 miles south of Peoria, said Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson. The agency estimated that at least 70 homes were destroyed across the state.
Stephen Wilson, a spokesman for Peoria’s Proctor Hospital, said six or seven patients were being treated with minor injuries. “Mostly cuts, bruises, some broken bones,” he said.
Photos from Washington, Illinois, showed buildings reduced to rubble and homes torn in half in the city of 15,000 people some 145 miles southwest of Chicago.
“We have reports of homes being flattened, roofs being torn off,” Sara Sparkman, a spokeswoman for the health department of Tazewell County, Illinois, where Washington is located, said in a telephone interview. “We have actual whole neighborhoods being demolished by the storm.”
Sparkman said the storm also had caused damage in Washington and Pekin, south of Peoria.
Many of the injuries appeared to have been caused by collapsing structures.
“Things falling on people’s head, broken bones, deep cuts, things like that,” Paul said. “We’re thinking it’s not as bad as we thought it would be. I think a lot of people got to their basements in time.”
The Illinois National Guard sent a 10-person firefighting and search-and-rescue team to Washington to help with the recovery effort.
Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said mobile homes were toppled, roofs torn from homes, and trees uprooted. She said officials believe some people may be trapped in their basements under debris.
The American Red Cross worked with emergency management officials to set up shelters and provide assistance to displaced residents, even as rescue workers searched for more people who might have been caught and trapped in the storm’s path.
The Washington tornado came out of a fast-moving storm system that was headed toward Chicago and threatened a large swath of the Midwest with dangerous winds, thunderstorms and hail, U.S. weather officials said.
“We obviously have a very dangerous situation on our hands,” Laura Furgione, deputy director of the National Weather Service, told reporters on a conference call.
Tornado warnings were in effect for parts of Indiana and Kentucky. Weather officials urged residents of areas with tornado warnings in place to take cover in interior, low-floor rooms of study buildings.
The NWS’s Storm Prediction Center said the storm moved dangerously fast, tracking eastward at 60 miles per hour.
This storm system has some similarities to the fast-moving “derecho” storm that knocked out power to more than 4.2 million people and killed 22 in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions in June 2012, according to Bill Bunting, forecast branch chief at the Storm Prediction Center.
“The line of storms today, we believe, when it’s fully mature, will actually be larger than the areas that were affected by the derecho in June of 2012,” Bunting said. “However, this will also be accompanied by a worse tornado threat in the areas that we’ve highlighted and large hail in Illinois and Wisconsin.”
(Additional reporting by Deborah Zabarenko, Jonathan Allen and Carey Gillam; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Sandra Maler and Bill Trott)
CHICAGO – The Chicago Bears had to wait out a long rain delay and put in extra time to come away with a much-needed win.
The big delay came after Tucker kicked a 52-yard field goal with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter. Fans were ordered to take cover. Players headed to the locker rooms as heavy rains and winds whipped through Soldier Field. They emerged about two hours later with the sky clearing and the sun coming out, but the rain and wind returned in the third quarter, turning the stands into a sea of ponchos.
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