Tornadoes and thunderstorms swept through a 300-mile stretch of Illinois and other midwestern states, killing at least five people, damaging hundreds of homes and disrupting air travel at O’Hare International Airport.
A county coroner in Washington County, about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis, said two people were killed when a tornado hit their home in the town of New Minden, the Associated Press reported. A third person died in Washington, Illinois, the AP said.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said there were as many as 66 reports of tornadoes in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. While Chicago, the region’s biggest city, was spared a direct hit, the storms snarled air traffic at its two airports and triggered the temporary evacuation of the stands at Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens were playing a professional football game.
More than 230 flights were canceled at O’Hare and more than two dozen were delayed at Midway, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Flight delays of several hours were expected to continue through midnight at O’Hare as a storm watch was posted until 8 a.m. Central time today.
The central Illinois towns of Washington and Pekin were heavily damaged. Whole blocks in Washington, about 145 miles (233 kilometers) southwest of Chicago, were leveled, authorities in Tazewell County said. In East Peoria, 20 homes were heavily damaged, according to Fire Chief Bill Darin.
For Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc., the company’s “facilities and any employees who may have been at those facilities at the time of the tornado are OK,” Rachel Potts, a spokeswoman, said by telephone.
“We are getting reports of employees’ homes that have been impacted if not destroyed,” Potts said. Caterpillar is the world’s biggest maker of mining equipment. Ameren Corp., which serves the Peoria area, reported as many as 107,000 customers without power in the wake of the storms as the National Weather Service reported large hail had accompanied the storms.
More than 78,000 northern Illinois customers of ComEd, a unit of Exelon Corp., were without power during the brunt of the storms, although the total dropped to about 2,200 by 11 p.m. Central time, according to the company’s website. “We are working to restore customers as quickly and as safely as possible,” said Martha Arendt, a company spokeswoman.