Deadly Midwest Storm Leaves Path Of Destruction

A powerful storm system rampaged through the Midwest on Sunday, spawning scores of tornadoes that killed at least four people, injured dozens of others and left devastating damage in parts of central Illinois.
 (Anthony Khoury via Reuters, NBC NEWS)
(Anthony Khoury via Reuters, NBC NEWS)
NBC NEWS -- A powerful storm system rampaged through the Midwest on Sunday, spawning scores of tornadoes that killed at least four people, injured dozens of others and left devastating damage in parts of central Illinois.

Washington, Ill., near Peoria, was particularly hard hit, with a resident saying his neighborhood was wiped out in seconds. Emergency crews were going door to door through the damaged neighborhood in search of victims.

At least four people were killed in Illinois, including an elderly brother and sister, officials said.

"All of a sudden, the wind started picking up, and [my wife] said, 'We've got to get in the basement right now,'" Steve Bucher of Washington told NBC station WEEK of Peoria.

"Within less than a minute, everything started collapsing inside the house, cracking, sputtering," he said. "Next thing we know, it's light inside the garage."

An elderly brother and sister who lived in a farmhouse near New Minden, Ill., were killed, Washington County Coroner Mark Styninger said. The man, 80, was pronounced dead at the scene, and his sister, 78, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The other deaths were confirmed in Brookport and in Washington City, Ill. Details weren't immediately available.

By early evening, 37 people were being treated at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, seven of them as trauma patients. Numerous injuries were also reported in Massac County, and with communications difficult and many roads impassable, it remained unclear how many other people might be hurt.

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 in the tornado-damaged area."

At WEEK-TV, newscasters had to go off the air abruptly as they realized they themselves were in the path of the twister. According to the National Weather Service, the station's roof was damaged.

In Tazewell County in central Illinois, emergency crews were responding to a tornado that flattened homes in several neighborhoods. The cities with reported damage include Washington, Perkin and East Peoria, county spokeswoman Sara Sparkman told NBC News. Pictures from Washington showed an expansive trail of wood debris from homes torn apart as the twister laid waste to one neighborhood.

East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus said about 100 homes were damaged in his city of more than 23,000 residents, with 25 to 50 destroyed and uninhabitable.

The Red Cross was working with the county to open up shelters in the area for families whose homes were damaged.

Altogether, The Weather Channel recorded 77 preliminary reports of tornadoes, with 252 reports of wind damage or high winds, across eight states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin.

At least 83,000 customers were without electric power Sunday evening in Illinois, most of those in the Peoria area, said Jonathon Moken, an emergency agency spokesman.

Rescue teams were deploying to multiple areas across the state, focusing on the hard-hit Washington and Gifford areas, Moken said.

In Chicago, the Baltimore Ravens-Chicago Bears NFL game was delayed because of the weather, and the seating area at Soldier Field was evacuated. The game resumed at about 2:20 p.m. (3:20 p.m. ET) after a nearly two-hour delay.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn warned residents that the weather and storms across the state were "very serious."

"I urge everyone to pay attention to all weather alerts and stay home and inside if possible," Quinn said in a statement. "Driving during these severe conditions is extremely dangerous. All residents should stay off the roads until these storms and flood warnings subside."

The highest threat area for tornadoes was eastern Illinois into Indiana, southern Michigan, western Kentucky and western Ohio, but dangerous winds were also a concern as the storms move across the Appalachians as well as parts of the Northeast into early Monday, the National Weather Service said.

Wind and hail could cause downed trees and scattered power failures, including to areas such as Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo.

The Weather Channel predicted that the storm would diminish as it moved east through Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, but high winds could reach as far as New York on Monday morning.

-- By Alastair Jamieson and Elisha Fieldstadt, NBC News
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