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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) 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 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) Pat Whitaker, 82, sits under a blanket in her nightgown outside her home waiting for help to come in Gifford, Ill. on 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 News-Gazette, Robin Scholz) Pat Whitaker, 82, sits under a blanket in her nightgown outside her home waiting for help to come in Gifford, Ill. on 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 News-Gazette, Robin Scholz) 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) 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) 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) FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2005 file photo, The 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 A couple walks down a street in the Devonshire subdivision on the North side of 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) US Army National Guard Master Sergeant Katie Williams of Altamont, center, walks to a destroyed home of Barb and John Evans in the Devonshire Subdivision in Washington, Illinois as relatives rescue belongings after a tornado destroyed several homes on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley)

Tornadoes, storms sweep across Midwest


Dozens of tornadoes and intense thunderstorms swept across the Midwest on Sunday, leaving at least five people dead and unleashing powerful winds that flattened entire neighborhoods, flipped over cars and uprooted trees.

Illinois took the brunt of the fury as the string of unusually powerful late-season tornadoes tore across the state, injuring dozens and even 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 cellphone from the hard-hit central Illinois 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 in the rural southern Illinois community of New Minden, said coroner Mark Styninger. A third person died in Washington, while two 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.

With communications difficult and many roads impassable, it remained unclear how many people were killed or hurt. The Illinois National Guard said it had dispatched 10 firefighters and three vehicles to Washington to assist with immediate search and recovery operations.

In Washington, a rural community of 16,000, whole blocks of houses were erased from the landscape, and Illinois State Police Trooper Dustin Pierce said the tornado cut a path from one end of town to the other, knocking down power lines, rupturing gas lines and ripping off roofs.

An auto parts store with several people inside was reduced to a pile of bricks, metal and rebar; a battered car, its windshield impaled by a piece of lumber, was flung alongside it. Despite the devastation, all the employees managed to crawl out of the rubble unhurt, Pierce said.

“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.”

Among those who lost everything was Curt Zehr, who described the speed with which the tornado turned his farmhouse outside Washington into a mass of rubble scattered over hundreds of yards. His truck was sent flying and landed on an uprooted tree.

“They heard the siren... and saw (the tornado) right there and got into the basement,” he said of his wife and adult son who were home at the time. Then, seconds later, when they looked out from their hiding place the house was gone and “the sun was out and right on top of them.”

At OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, spokeswoman Amy Paul said 37 patients had been treated, eight with injuries ranging from broken bones to head injuries. Another hospital, Methodist Medical Center in Peoria, treated more than a dozen, but officials there said none of them were seriously injured.

Steve Brewer, Methodist Medical Center’s chief operating officer, 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.

By nightfall, Trooper Pierce said there were reports of looting in Washington.

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.

Just how many tornadoes hit was unclear. The National Weather Services’ websitee reported 65 tornadoes.



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