At least 6 dead as twisters, storms slam Midwest

8:29 AM, Nov 18, 2013   |    comments
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USA TODAY - A ferocious November storm system pounded the Midwest on Sunday, bringing violent tornadoes, howling winds and heavy rain. At least six people were killed and dozens more were injured, authorities said. Some were reportedly trapped in collapsed buildings.

Weather officials were urging Midwestern residents to continue to be prepared as a powerful, rapidly moving storm system roared across the region through the evening.

National Weather Service officials confirmed that several tornadoes touched down in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. In total, there had been over 50 reports of tornadoes as of 4 p.m. ET.

A county coroner says two people were killed when a tornado hit their home in rural southern Illinois. Washington County coroner, Mark Styninger, said an elderly man and his sister died Sunday afternoon in their farmhouse in the town of New Minden, about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis.

Another was killed about seven miles from there in Nashville, Ill., said Patti Thompson, spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

A tornado hit near East Peoria in central Illinois, where photos from the area showed devastating damage. Some injuries have been reported.

"There are reports of significant damage in the towns of Washington and Pekin, Ill.," Thompson said. "There's been a wide disruption of communications in those areas also. We have dispatched staff and communications equipment to help support the local authorities. There are reports of people trapped (in collapsed buildings), and technical rescue teams have been dispatched."

"It's a pretty widespread event here in Illinois," Thompson said.

She did not have specifics on how many people were injured, or on damages from the storms. Officials had opened a shelter in the Washington area, and the state's Emergency Operations Center had been activated.

Significant storm damage also was reported in Coal City in Grundy County, and in LaSalle counties. The weather service had confirmed at least four tornadoes in Indiana by mid-afternoon, as central Indiana remained under a tornado watch until 8 p.m. The storms have already left at least 13,000 people across Indiana without power, according to Duke Energy.

"This is a very dangerous situation," Russell Schneider, director of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center, told the Associated Press midday Sunday. "Approximately 53 million in 10 states are at significant risk for thunderstorms and tornadoes."

Heavy rain and lightning in Chicago delayed the NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. But Chicago police said the weather has not caused any major emergencies with the city.

Severe weather forced play to be stopped and fans were evacuated from the field seating bowl with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter the game.

The initial evacuation came at 1:31 p.m. ET. Five minutes later, referee Gene Steratore announced play would be "temporarily suspended" and both teams left the field. The game was restarted after a nearly two-hour delay.

Once the storm passed, the sun came out, giving some residents along the Chicago lakefront views of spectacular rainbows.

In Peoria, Ill., OSF Saint Francis Medical Center was treating 28 tornado victims Sunday evening, including eight trauma patients, said hospital spokeswoman Amy Paul.

Eight to 10 people were treated at and released from UnityPoint Health-Methodist Hospital, also in Peoria, said hospital spokesman Duane Funk.

Earlier Sunday, the National Weather Service issued a "high risk" alert of severe weather for eastern Illinois, Indiana, western Ohio and far southwest lower Michigan, with conditions favorable for a tornado outbreak and widespread damaging winds.

This is the first time in decades that a "high risk" area was issued so far north in the month of November, according to meteorologist Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground.

The agency says strong winds and atmospheric instability are expected to sweep across the central Plains during the day before pushing into the Mid-Atlantic states and northeast by evening. The potential for strong and long-track tornadoes will continue in the Ohio Valley and adjacent Midwestern states.

The storms are expected to diminish in intensity Sunday night into Monday, but strong wind gusts will remain possible for parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, according to the Weather Channel.

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