At least seven dead as storms hit American midwest

Seven counties declared disaster areas as 40 tornadoes sweep through region

A vehicle sits on a pile of debris from the destruction caused by a tornado that touched down in Washington, Illinois, on Sunday.  Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

A vehicle sits on a pile of debris from the destruction caused by a tornado that touched down in Washington, Illinois, on Sunday. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 01:05

The severe storms that moved through the American midwest on Sunday killed at least seven people and injured dozens more, causing power failures for hundreds of thousands of people.

Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois declared seven counties disaster areas. “As we pray for the families of those who have lost their lives and others who are injured, the state of Illinois will do everything necessary to help these communities recover,” he said in a statement.

At least seven deaths had been reported by early yesterday. A man (80) and his sister (78) were killed when a tornado struck their farm outside New Minden, about 80km east of St Louis. One person was killed in Washington, one of the hardest-hit towns, and three others were killed in Massac county in southern Illinois, according to Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. A related death was also reported in Michigan. Dozens of people were injured in Washington, a town of 15,000 just east of Peoria.

At least 35 people were taken to a hospital with injuries, according to a statement from OSF St Francis Medical Center in Peoria. There was also extensive damage in the nearby town of Pekin, which has a population of about 34,000.

Officials had 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 storms had passed on Sunday evening, tornadoes – scores of them, according to the National Weather Service – had left paths of destruction. The tally of storms and their destruction was still being drawn up, said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

There were “on the order of 40 tornadoes” across the region. At least two of those are likely to be rated EF4, which have winds of at least 267km/h. The larger storm system, a product of jet stream energy interacting with warm, moist air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico, generated winds of 130km/h or more.

Thunderstorms led to 525 reports of wind damage stretching from eastern Iowa into New Jersey and southern New York and extending as far south as Tennessee. – (New York Times service)