Midwest tornadoes, winds slam towns and trucks; 5 killed in Illinois
(CNN) — Severe weather erupted throughout the Midwest on Sunday afternoon, with tornadoes tearing through several cities and a storm forcing fans to evacuate the stands during an NFL game.
“It was complete destruction,” said Anthony Khoury, who lives in Washington, Illinois. “There are people in the streets crying.”
At least five people died in Illinois as a result of the severe storms, officials said.
In two communities, storms destroyed at least 70 homes, according to Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Rescuers were trying to reach people trapped in their basements, he said. One hospital in Peoria was treating 37 patients with injuries.
More than 60 tornadoes had been reported throughout the region as of 5:10 p.m. Sunday, the National Weather Service said.
As a tornado neared his home, Khoury prayed and recorded a video of the dark twister churning toward him.
“The tornado happened in my backyard, and you can hear people screaming,” he told CNN’s iReport. “We were freaking out.”
While his house survived the storm, Khoury said others in the neighborhood weren’t as lucky.
Video from CNN affiliate WMBD showed one Washington neighborhood where a tornado smashed cars and houses, littering the ground with broken wood beams and flinging furniture and debris onto lawns, sidewalks and streets.
“I grabbed my daughter and ran,” one storm survivor told WMBD.
In nearby Peoria, Mayor Jim Ardis said his city was planning to send aid to help storm recovery in Washington, where a tornado hit what he described as a “very densely populated area.”
“It’s just absolutely unbelievable,” he said.
Jack Lance, who lives in Pekin, said he saw a lot of wreckage in his town.
“We saw trees down, houses with their roofs completely torn off. I saw a lot of people in distress with their homes destroyed,” he said. “It wasn’t a pretty sight.”
Officials delayed the NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens for nearly two hours as storms approached Chicago, warning spectators to leave the stands at Soldier Field and head for covered areas.
“The rain started coming, the skies got black, the wind was insane, and they evacuated us to underneath the concrete concourse,” said Jim Arnold, who was at the game with his 11-year-old daughter.
“We’ve been through 15-degree-below weather and winds, but never anything like this,” Arnold said. “The winds gusted at 70 mph, and the winds and the rain were horizontal and everybody was running. It was just crazy.”
Fans returned to their seats and the game resumed mid-afternoon after the storm passed.
But other parts of the region still faced the threat of more severe weather, forecasters warned.
“These storms having been moving so fast today, it’s been hard to keep up,” said storm chaser Tony Laubach, who spoke to CNN as he watched a tornado touch down outside Lebanon, Indiana.
In Illinois, two deaths were reported in Nashville; one in Washington; one near Brookport; and one near Unionville, according to officials.
Monken said there were at least 11 confirmed tornado touchdowns, and officials there expect the number of storm-related injuries to grow.
In Oak Lawn, a wind gust of 86 mph was recorded as a severe thunderstorm rolled through the area.
At least six trucks overturned on highways about 80 miles west of Chicago due to high winds, the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office said.
In a Twitter post, Indiana State Police shared a photo of twisted metal, piles of debris and the shell of a school building.
Many people are without power across the state, police said.
Storms damaged a mall and a bank and collapsed the roof of a fire station in Kokomo, Indiana, said Larry Smith, emergency management director in Howard County.
Some houses had their roofs torn off when a tornado hit the area, he said.
Officials in Kokomo declared a state of emergency and closed schools for Monday, according to the city’s Twitter account.
This is a particularly dangerous situation, the National Weather Service said in a bulletin released Sunday morning.
And a tweet from the weather service in northern Indiana was even more ominous: “The worst decision you could make today is to ignore a severe/tornado warning. These storms will be nasty.”
A tornado watch means that weather conditions exist that can produce tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Conditions are favorable for long-tracked, significant tornadoes across this watch area, the Storm Prediction Center said.