Update: A 6th person has been declared killed by the storms.
By EMMA G. FITZSIMMONS, NYT Severe storms moved through the Midwest on Sunday, leveling towns, killing at least five people in Illinois and injuring dozens more, and causing thousands of power failures across the region.
Officials warned of a fast-moving, deadly storm system on Sunday morning and issued tornado watches throughout the day for wide areas of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. By the time the storm had passed on Sunday evening, tornadoes — scores of them, according to the National Weather Service — had left paths of destruction.
Homes were leveled and trees shredded in Washington, Ill., and nearby farms were turned upside down, with farm equipment dotting the landscape.
Weather officials were uncertain just how many confirmed tornadoes might have hit the region. But as of Sunday evening, the National Weather Service website listed reports of at least 77 — most of them in Illinois — although officials cautioned that in some cases there may have been multiple reports on the same storm.
At least five deaths were reported by Sunday evening. An 80-year-old man and his 78-year-old sister were killed when a tornado struck their farm outside New Minden, Ill., about 50 miles east of St. Louis. The man was found in a field about 100 yards from the home, and the woman was found under a pile of rubble, according to the Washington County coroner’s office.
A third person was killed in Washington, Ill., one of the hardest-hit towns, and two others were killed in Massac County in Southern Illinois, according to Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. The details of the deaths were not available late Sunday.
Dozens of people were also injured in the town, which has 15,000 residents and is about halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. At least 35 people were taken to a hospital with injuries, according to a statement from OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. There was also extensive damage in the nearby city of Pekin, which has about 34,000 people.
In Indiana, tornadoes and storm damage were reported in 12 counties, according to Gov. Mike Pence. In Missouri, the utility company Ameren reported that more than 35,000 customers had lost power, mostly in the St. Louis area.
Officials said a tornado also struck Coal City, Ill., about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. At least 100 buildings there were damaged and at least four people were injured, according to local media reports.
Storms also caused extensive damage in East Peoria, officials said.
Members of the Illinois National Guard and other emergency rescue teams were sent to the towns to help with search and recovery operations. Whole neighborhoods in Washington were destroyed, according to Tyler Gee, an alderman on the City Council.
“I went over there immediately after the tornado, walking through the neighborhoods, and I couldn’t even tell what street I was on,” Mr. Gee told the radio station WBBM in Chicago. “It just completely flattened some of the neighborhoods here in town, hundreds of homes.”
Photographs from the town showed overturned cars and piles of debris where homes once stood. The National Guard also sent 10 firefighters and three vehicles to Washington, and the American Red Cross in central Illinois sent volunteers to set up shelters and distribute water and food.
Washington town officials implemented an overnight curfew on Sunday starting at 6 p.m., said Ms. Arnold of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Officials were worried about safety because of the debris and downed power lines, she said.
In Roanoke, Ill., about 15 miles east of Washington, one family was at church on Sunday when a tornado hit their farm. Tony Johnson of Germantown Hills said he arrived at his niece’s farm about 30 minutes after the tornado passed and found that it had destroyed everything in its path. His niece and her husband and three children were not home when the storm hit, he said.
“The house is gone, everything is leveled,” Mr. Johnson said in a telephone interview. “There is nothing that is usable. Their trucks were tossed around like toys.”
Soon, neighbors started arriving to help the family sift through the rubble, he said.
On Sunday evening, officials were still trying to assess the damage. Telephone lines in the most devastated towns were not working, making it difficult to get more information, said Patti Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Thunderstorms and strong winds also caused problems in Chicago, disrupting power and hundreds of flights and delaying a National Football League game.
Fans attending the afternoon football game at Soldier Field were asked to leave the stands and take shelter during the first quarter of the Bears’ game against the Baltimore Ravens. The game was suspended for almost two hours before play resumed, and the Bears finished with a victory.
More than 230 flights were canceled at O’Hare International Airport because of the weather, and many other flights were delayed. Flights were also delayed at Midway Airport in Chicago.
Wind gusts reached as high as 75 miles per hour in the Chicago area, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm caused widespread power failures in Chicago and nearby suburbs. There were at least 89,000 reported losses of power in Northern Illinois, according to ComEd, the utility company that serves the city.
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