Dozens of tornadoes and intense thunderstorms ravaged the Midwest Sunday, leaving six people dead and virtually decimating the town of Washington, Illinois.
"The whole neighborhood's gone," resident Michael Perdun told The Associated Press. "The wall of my fireplace is all that is left of my house.
Early Monday, Washington Mayor Gary Manier estimated that from 250 to 500 homes were either damaged or destroyed in the storm and that it wasn't clear when residents would be allowed to return.
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"Everybody's without power, but some people are without everything," Manier told reporters in the parking lot of a destroyed auto parts store and near a row of flattened homes.
"How people survived is beyond me," he said.
The unusually powerful late-season wave of thunderstorms brought damaging winds and tornadoes to 12 states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and western New York.
Bill Bunting, forecast operations chief of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the storms all belonged to the same system and would be "moving rapidly to the east and continue east overnight and into the morning."
Illinois was the hardest struck with at least six people killed and dozens more injured.
An 80-year-old man and his 78-year-old sister were killed by a tornado that hit their farmhouse near the rural southern Illinois community of New Minden, coroner Mark Styninger said. A third person died in Washington, while three others perished in Massac County in the far southern part of the state, said Patti Thompson of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. She did not provide details.
Communications remained difficult and with many roads impassable it was not clear if the injury and death tolls would rise on Monday. Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn declared seven counties disaster areas.
Washington, a town of 16,000 about 140 miles southwest of Chicago, appeared to have suffered the most severe damage. The tornado cut a path about an eighth of a mile wide from one side of town to the other, State Trooper Dustin Pierce said.
The Illinois National Guard assisted with search and recovery operations in Washington. The White House issued a statement saying President Barack Obama had been briefed about the damage and was in touch with federal, state, and local officials. Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence were scheduled to survey affected areas in their respective states Monday.
About 90 minutes after the tornado destroyed homes in Washington Sunday, the stormy weather 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. Although about 80 reports of tornadoes had come in as of Sunday night, the National Weather Service's Bunting said the actual number will likely be in the 30 to 40 range. He said that's because the same tornado often gets reported multiple times.
Weather service meteorologist Matt Friedlein said such weather is rare this late in the year, but that strong winds coupled with temperatures in the 60s and 70s spawned Sunday's storms.
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Here's a look at the storm damage in surrounding states:
Severe thunderstorms packing tornadoes and heavy winds rolled across Indiana, injuring several people and causing widespread damage.
Gov. Pence said 12 counties reported either tornadoes or storm damage after the initial line of storms had traveled midway across Indiana.
Kokomo police asked residents to stay home and off the streets after city officials declared a state of emergency in the wake of severe storms. The city police department posted photos on its Twitter account showing buildings with roofs torn off and a destroyed bank branch.
Heavy winds from storms caused damage to buildings and left tens of thousands across Ohio without power.
Wood County, in the northwestern part of the state, was among the hardest-hit areas. There were multiple reports of damage to the roofs of buildings and homes.
The county's emergency management director, Brad Gilbert, said two people were taken to a hospital to be evaluated for minor injuries after their home sustained substantial damage in Jerry City, about 10 miles southeast of Bowling Green.
Thousands of customers were without power across northwest Ohio due to the storm.
Strong winds knocked out power to thousands in the Milwaukee area, damaged buildings and downed trees in Dodge County, and sent churchgoers scrambling into church basements for safety.
In the town of Hustisford, cattle sheds, garages and storage sheds were damaged, said Dodge County Emergency Management Director Joseph Meagher. No injuries were immediately reported, he said.
High winds and rain slammed into Michigan, causing tens of thousands of power outages. The storm hit from Lake Michigan communities in the west to counties hundreds of miles to the east. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but trees and power lines snapped from winds topping 60 mph.
A possible tornado touched down at a uranium enrichment plant in Paducah, Ky., as strong storms moved through the state. No deaths or injuries were reported, and plant officials said no hazardous materials were released from the plant.
A total of eight Kentucky counties reported tornado sightings.
At least two homes were destroyed — one in Henderson County and another in Butler County. More than 3,000 customers lost power.
Severe storms slammed the eastern part of Missouri, leaving thousands without power mostly in the St. Louis area and destroying a mobile home in Scott County. No one was injured.
The National Weather Service said the storm tore shingles off roofs and uprooted trees across parts of St. Louis and St. Louis County.
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