CHICAGO — Dozens of tornadoes and intense thunderstorms swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities, killing at least three people and 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 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 around noon in the rural community of New Minden, said Mark Styninger, the coroner of Washington County in southern Illinois. A third person died in Washington, said Melanie Arnold of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. She did not provide details.
By mid-afternoon, with communications difficult and many roads impassable, it remained unclear how many people were killed or hurt by the string of tornadoes. 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.
“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.”
Steve Brewer, chief operating officer at Methodist Medical Center of Illinois in Peoria, said 14 people had come to the hospital seeking treatment for minor injuries, while another Washington area hospital had received about 15 patients.