Reports of Tornadoes as Chicago Area Is Hit by Severe Storms

A parade of severe weather was marching eastward on Wednesday, hours after parts of the Upper Midwest were hit with strong thunderstorms, damaging winds and numerous reports of tornadoes, leaving thousands without power.

  • Between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, tornado warnings were issued across the Midwest as the line of storms rolled east.

  • The storms are likely to fade in intensity throughout Wednesday.

An early picture of the storms’ impact began to emerge as officials worked to assess damage and confirm tornadoes in several communities west of Chicago on Tuesday night.

As the threat of severe weather moved east on Wednesday morning, more than 3 million people across Ohio and Kentucky were under a tornado watch. The Weather Service office in Wilmington, Ohio, issued a brief tornado warning for several counties in west central Ohio, advising that debris may fly in strong winds and that mobile homes could be damaged or destroyed. Tornado watches were also issued for Indiana until 6 a.m.

Debris from the storms caused numerous road closures throughout the Midwest and forced Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio, to close one of its gates, a spokesman said.

Overnight, parts of Michigan appeared to be among the hardest hit, including Grand Blanc, less than 10 miles southeast of Flint. The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook that a tornado had struck the area around 1:20 a.m. A spokesman from the Grand Blanc Township Fire Department said that it was receiving “lots of reports of damage,” and the Genesee County Police, Fire and E.M.S. website showed reports of downed power lines and a natural gas odor in the city.

As of 8 a.m., nearly 15,000 customers in Michigan and nearly 30,000 in Ohio were without power, according to, which aggregates data from utilities across the country.

On Tuesday evening, officials at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago briefly grounded all departing flights and suspend its rail service while asking people in the airport to “exercise caution.” The NBC News affiliate in Chicago shared video of hundreds of passengers packing into the airport for shelter.

The National Weather Service confirmed there were reports of at least one tornado touchdown in Henry County in western Illinois. At least five other tornado sightings were reported by the Weather Service, including three near the city of DeKalb, roughly 60 miles west of the Chicago.

The ongoing storms will continue to march east Wednesday but are likely to lose their intensity. As the colder air moves east it will create a line of showers and thunderstorms that stretches from the South to the Northeast. There is a possibility that storms from Tennessee to New York could see some isolated strong wind gusts from some of the more intense storms.

Behind the line of storms temperatures will plummet and the potential for moderate to heavy snow will develop over the Great Lakes into the Northeast.

Yan Zhuang contributed reporting.

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