WASHINGTON, Illinois — Hundreds of thousands of people were without power and hundreds were without homes across the Midwest on Monday after powerful storms wreaked havoc in three states.
The worst damage appeared to be in Illinois, where six people died.
Gov. Pat Quinn declared seven counties a state disaster area, including Tazewell County, where a tornado left parts of Washington, Illinois, in ruins.
“Devastation. Sadness. People that lost everything,” is how Washington Mayor Gary Manier described the scene to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day.”
Another tornado in Washington County, Illinois, east of St. Louis, left a path of debris that stretched more than three miles, according to a preliminary survey by the National Weather Service.
While the bulk of the storm had moved offshore into the Atlantic Ocean and the threat of severe weather Monday was small, damaging wind gusts of up to 40 mph were still possible in parts of the Northeast, CNN meteorologist Indra Petersons said Monday morning. In the Great Lakes region, 50 mph gusts were possible, she said.
The storm struck Washington around 11 a.m. Sunday, when many of the town’s 10,000 residents were at church.
The timing may have been a blessing: Dozens of homes were destroyed, but only one person is known to have died in Washington, a city of 10,000 just west of Peoria, Illinois.
“It was complete destruction,” resident CNN iReporter Anthony Khoury, who filmed the tornado tearing through his neighborhood, said Sunday. “There are people in the streets crying.”
In nearby Peoria, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center treated 55 people for injuries related to the storm, the hospital tweeted. Some of the injuries included rib, femur and pelvic breaks. Two patients were in critical condition.
Resident Michelle Crumrine said the winds swept her home and everything in it clean away.
“A lot of people have a pile of rubble still, and I don’t have anything,” she said. “It’s gone. I don’t know where it went.”
‘Completely in the Lord’s hands’
Steve Bucher of Washington lost everything in the storm, except for his wife, his shoes and a single dollar bill in his wallet.
“The sky was just rumbling for 20 minutes,” he told CNN. “I told my wife I’ve just never heard anything like this in my life.”
Soon, she was begging him to go downstairs into their basement.
“Within 30 seconds, the house was literally vibrating from the direct hit of this funnel cloud,” Bucher said.
“Next thing we know, things are cracking, and glass breaking and furniture came around the corner, missed us even though it came down the hallway where we were,” he said.
“I think my attitude was in the next minute and a half, we’re either going to be in heaven, we’re going to be in the hospital or we’re going to walk out of here. Completely in the Lord’s hands which one of those three things was going to happen,” he said.
The storm took most of his house down to the decking over his walk-out basement, but neither he nor his wife was hurt.
“Everything else is rebuildable,” Bucher said. “I couldn’t replace her.”
In Nashville, Illinois — about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis — two people died when a tornado with estimated peak winds of 166 mph hit.
And three people in far southern Illinois died from what was believed to be a tornado there, two in the Brookport area and one in Unionville.
Brutal winds also flipped over at least six trucks on highways about 80 miles west of Chicago, the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office said.
Officials in Missouri and Indiana were also dealing with storm damage.
In Missouri, state emergency officials said a tornado may have hit Scott County, where heavy winds overturned three rail cars and blew over four mobile homes.
And the mayor of Kokomo, Indiana, declared a state of emergency and closed schools Monday. While the state of emergency was set to be lifted at 6 a.m. Monday, “unnecessary travel in the affected areas is still prohibited,” city officials tweeted.
There, the roof of a building sat in the middle of a road. A car rested on the mountain of rubble from a leveled home.
More than 160,000 people are without power across the state, said John Erickson, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is scheduled to tour the storm damage Monday.
Soldier Field, O’Hare affected
Officials delayed the NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens for almost 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.”
After the storm passed, fans returned to their seats and the game resumed
But thousands of travelers scheduled to fly through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport also had to grapple with the storm. More than 270 flights were canceled Sunday, and delays overnight stretched for an hour or more.
Massive power outages
Across the Midwest, more than 321,000 customers were without power Monday morning.
Most were in Michigan, where more than 245,000 customers had no electrical service. That was down from a peak of at least 390,000, utility companies said.
CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis said the storms came later in the year than some might have expected.
“The primary time for tornadoes, as we well know, is springtime. Then we see a second high that comes in the fall,” she said. “Is this late? It is rather late, because the temperatures have been very warm.”
“On the backside of that, temperatures are dramatically cooler. So that cold air is filtering in behind it, warm air out ahead of it,” she said. “And … we get some twisting motion in the atmosphere. And that’s why we see this tornadic activity.”
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