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At least five killed in Midwest tornadoes, storms

  • Ray Baughman embraces family shortly after his home was destroyed by a tornado that left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Il., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

    Ray Baughman embraces family shortly after his home was destroyed by a tornado that left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Il., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • Washington, Ill., firefighters stand in the middle of Devonshire Street on the North side of Washington, Ill., after a tornado leveled at least fifty homes, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. High winds that followed the tornado are causing danger as homeowners and emergency workers try to search homes.  (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

    Washington, Ill., firefighters stand in the middle of Devonshire Street on the North side of Washington, Ill., after a tornado leveled at least fifty homes, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. High winds that followed the tornado are causing danger as homeowners and emergency workers try to search homes. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

  • A Washington homeowner moves debris next to a set of stairs that once lead to the second floor of his home in Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

    A Washington homeowner moves debris next to a set of stairs that once lead to the second floor of his home in Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

  • An Ameren Illinois worker walks past homes looking for gas and electrical hazards in Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

    An Ameren Illinois worker walks past homes looking for gas and electrical hazards in Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

  • Fans are advised to leave the stadium as severe weather passes over Soldier Field during the first half of an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

    Fans are advised to leave the stadium as severe weather passes over Soldier Field during the first half of an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Aimee Royer holds a dog she rescued from debris after a Sunday morning tornado sliced through a subdivision on the North side of Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Royer and her friend, Kendra Gray, at right, said their home was spared. Several homes are cleared down to the foundation. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

    Aimee Royer holds a dog she rescued from debris after a Sunday morning tornado sliced through a subdivision on the North side of Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Royer and her friend, Kendra Gray, at right, said their home was spared. Several homes are cleared down to the foundation. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

  • A mattress is wrapped around a stripped tree in Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

    A mattress is wrapped around a stripped tree in Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

  • East Peoria resident Billy Vestal evacuates with his daughter, Lillian Vestal, 3, after a tornado damaged the area near Chestnut Road in East Peoria, Il.,Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter (AP Photo/Journal Star, Justin Wan) MANDATORY CREDIT

    East Peoria resident Billy Vestal evacuates with his daughter, Lillian Vestal, 3, after a tornado damaged the area near Chestnut Road in East Peoria, Il.,Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter (AP Photo/Journal Star, Justin Wan) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • A view of part of Washington, Ill. is seen from Mackenzie Street in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 after a tornado moved through the area. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter and even prompting officials at Soldier Field in Chicago to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game.  (AP Photo/Alex Kareotes)

    A view of part of Washington, Ill. is seen from Mackenzie Street in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 after a tornado moved through the area. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter and even prompting officials at Soldier Field in Chicago to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game. (AP Photo/Alex Kareotes)

  • A view of part of Washington, Ill. is seen Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 after a tornado moved through the area. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter and even prompting officials at Soldier Field in Chicago to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game.  (AP Photo/Alex Kareotes)

    A view of part of Washington, Ill. is seen Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 after a tornado moved through the area. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter and even prompting officials at Soldier Field in Chicago to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game. (AP Photo/Alex Kareotes)

  • Shirley Wolf says she hung on to her dog Sammy for dear life as a tornado destroyed her home at 306 Delshire in Pekin, Il.,Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

    Shirley Wolf says she hung on to her dog Sammy for dear life as a tornado destroyed her home at 306 Delshire in Pekin, Il.,Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • A tree was pulled out of the ground by the roots, collapsing onto a house after a tornado left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Il.,Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

    A tree was pulled out of the ground by the roots, collapsing onto a house after a tornado left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Il.,Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • Josh Ramsey recovers items from a house of a family friend after a tornado left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Ill., hitting right about noon Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

    Josh Ramsey recovers items from a house of a family friend after a tornado left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Ill., hitting right about noon Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • Ray Baughman embraces family shortly after his home was destroyed by a tornado that left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Il., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

    Ray Baughman embraces family shortly after his home was destroyed by a tornado that left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Il., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • Ray Baughman embraces family shortly after his home was destroyed by a tornado that left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Il., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT
  • Washington, Ill., firefighters stand in the middle of Devonshire Street on the North side of Washington, Ill., after a tornado leveled at least fifty homes, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. High winds that followed the tornado are causing danger as homeowners and emergency workers try to search homes.  (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)
  • A Washington homeowner moves debris next to a set of stairs that once lead to the second floor of his home in Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)
  • An Ameren Illinois worker walks past homes looking for gas and electrical hazards in Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)
  • Fans are advised to leave the stadium as severe weather passes over Soldier Field during the first half of an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
  • Aimee Royer holds a dog she rescued from debris after a Sunday morning tornado sliced through a subdivision on the North side of Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Royer and her friend, Kendra Gray, at right, said their home was spared. Several homes are cleared down to the foundation. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)
  • A mattress is wrapped around a stripped tree in Washington, Ill., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)
  • East Peoria resident Billy Vestal evacuates with his daughter, Lillian Vestal, 3, after a tornado damaged the area near Chestnut Road in East Peoria, Il.,Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter (AP Photo/Journal Star, Justin Wan) MANDATORY CREDIT
  • A view of part of Washington, Ill. is seen from Mackenzie Street in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 after a tornado moved through the area. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter and even prompting officials at Soldier Field in Chicago to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game.  (AP Photo/Alex Kareotes)
  • A view of part of Washington, Ill. is seen Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 after a tornado moved through the area. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter and even prompting officials at Soldier Field in Chicago to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game.  (AP Photo/Alex Kareotes)
  • Shirley Wolf says she hung on to her dog Sammy for dear life as a tornado destroyed her home at 306 Delshire in Pekin, Il.,Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT
  • A tree was pulled out of the ground by the roots, collapsing onto a house after a tornado left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Il.,Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT
  • Josh Ramsey recovers items from a house of a family friend after a tornado left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Ill., hitting right about noon Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT
  • Ray Baughman embraces family shortly after his home was destroyed by a tornado that left a path of devastation through the north end of Pekin, Il., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people to their basements for shelter. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky) MANDATORY CREDIT

Dozens of tornadoes and intense thunderstorms swept across the Midwest yesterday, 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 cell phone 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 about 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.”

Just how many tornadoes hit was unclear yesterday afternoon. According to the National Weather Service’s 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.

The storm followed warnings by the weather service that the storm was simply moving too fast for people to wait until they saw it to get ready.

“Our primary message is this is a dangerous weather system that has the potential to be extremely deadly and destructive,” said Laura Furgione, deputy director of the National Weather Service National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Get ready now.”

Hours later, at 11 a.m., weather service officials confirmed a tornado had touched down near the central Illinois community of East Peoria, about 150 miles southwest of Chicago. Within an hour, tornadoes were reported in Washington, Metamora, Morton and other central Illinois communities.

“This is a very dangerous situation,” said Russell Schneider, director of the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center. Some 53 million people in 10 states were “at significant risk for thunderstorms and tornadoes,” he said.

Such severe weather this late in the season also carries the risk of surprise.

“People can fall into complacency because they don’t see severe weather and tornadoes, but we do stress that they should keep a vigilant eye on the weather and have a means to hear a tornado warning because things can change very quickly,” said Friedlein, the weather service meteorologist.

According to agency officials, parts of Illinois, Indiana, southern Michigan and western Ohio were at the greatest risk of seeing tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds throughout the day yesterday.

Strong winds and atmospheric instability were expected to sweep across the central Plains during the day before pushing into the mid-Atlantic states and Northeast by evening. Many of the storms were expected to become super cells, with the potential to produce tornadoes, large hail and destructive winds.

Friedlein said that such strong storms are rare this late in the year because there usually isn’t enough heat from the sun to sustain the thunderstorms. But he said temperatures yesterday were expected to reach into the 60s and 70s, which he said is warm enough to help produce severe weather when it is coupled with winds, which are typically stronger this time of year than in the summer.

“You don’t need temperatures in the 80s and 90s to produce severe weather (because) the strong winds compensate for the lack of heating,” he said. “That sets the stage for what we call wind shear, which may produce tornadoes.”

In fact, tornadoes this time a year happen more often than people might realize, he said, pointing to a twister that hit the Rockford, Ill., area in November 2010.

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