A string of tornadoes tore through the mid-western states on Sunday cutting a path of destruction and leaving at least six people dead in Illinois alone.
The storms were particularly dangerous for several reasons. Meteorologist Jeff Masters, called it "a rare and very dangerous late-season severe weather outbreak," because the tornadoes that landed were moving very fast, giving people very short warning to find safe shelter.
The National Weather Service put the total number of twisters that touchdowned at nearly 80, with storms ripping across Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The most severe damage was seen in the town of Washington, Illinois where homes were flattened and debris was strewn in every direction for miles.
According to the New York Times:
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.
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The Chicago Tribune put the state-wide death toll at six as of Monday morning. And the paper reports:
Meteorologists had predicted the violent storms days ahead of time, anticipating volatile atmospheric conditions that are freakish for a season when tornadoes are a relative rarity. “Weather doesn't get more extreme than this in Illinois very often,” said Matt Friedlein, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
The storms exploded over Illinois when gusting winter jet streams from the northwest collided with the unusually warm and moist air that had arrived Saturday.
“You've got wintertime winds in the atmosphere above summertime moisture,” Friedlein said. “While unusual, when that happens, you're going to have very strong storms that move very quickly.”