Tornadoes Touch Down in Illinois; Bears Game Delayed

Posted at 1:15 PM, Nov 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-17 15:54:37-05

File photo

(CNN) — Severe weather erupted throughout the Midwest on Sunday afternoon, with several tornadoes hitting cities in Illinois and a storm system interrupting an NFL game for about two hours.

Large, fast-moving tornadoes touched down near Washington, which is just east of Peoria, and Frankfort, near the southern outskirts of Chicago, the National Weather Service said.

In Oak Lawn, Illinois, a wind gust of 86 mph was recorded as a severe thunderstorm rolled through the area.

There was extensive damage from the storms, the weather service said.

Jack Lance, who lives in Pekin, Illinois, said there is “a lot of wreckage” in his town.

“We saw trees down, houses with their roofs completely torn off. I saw a lot of people in distress with their homes destroyed,” he said. “It wasn’t a pretty sight.”

He told CNN that many residents heeded warning sirens and moved to storm shelters before the tornado hit.

Tornado watches have been issued from Michigan to Missouri, CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis said. Severe weather threatened 26 states and more than 100 million people, she said.

The NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens was delayed in the first quarter due to severe weather in the Chicago area. Spectators were warned to leave the stands and head for covered areas. Play resumed mid-afternoon.

Stronger than normal winds were already blowing at Soldier Field ahead of the main brunt of the storm. Before the game, flags, temporary signs and tents outside the stadium had been removed, CNN affiliate WLS reported.

Forecasters said there was a possibility of intense tornadoes, large hail up to 2 inches in diameter, and damaging wind gusts — some of them greater than 80 mph in and near the watch areas.

The watch area also includes Detroit and Indianapolis.

This is a particularly dangerous situation, the National Weather Service said in a bulletin released Sunday morning.

And a tweet from the weather service in northern Indiana was even more ominous: “The worst decision you could make today is to ignore a severe/tornado warning. These storms will be nasty.”

A tornado watch means that weather conditions exist that can produce tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Conditions are favorable for long-tracked, significant tornadoes across this watch area, the Storm Prediction Center said.