Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities while sending people scrambling for shelter and even prompting officials at Chicago's Soldier Field to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game.
The community of Washington in central Illinois appeared particularly hard-hit, with one resident saying 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," Michael Perdun said Sunday afternoon in an interview with The Associated Press on his cellphone. "The whole neighborhood's gone, (and) the wall of my fireplace is all that is left of my house."
By mid-afternoon it remained unclear how many people were hurt. 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 in the tornado damaged area."
And Steve Brewer, chief operating officer at Methodist Medical Center of Illinois in Peoria, said that four or five people had come to the hospital seeking treatment, but he described their injuries as minor. He said another area hospital had received about 15 patients, but did not know the severity of their injuries.
Brewer said doctors and other medical professionals were setting up a temporary emergency care center to treat the wounded before transporting them to area hospitals.
"I went over there immediately after the tornado, walking through the neighborhoods, and I couldn't even tell what street I was on," Alderman Tyler Gee told WLS-TV. "Just completely flattened — some of the neighborhoods here in town, hundreds of homes."