The Heat Is Online

Violent Storms sweep Midwest

Central United States hit by violent weather

Reuters News Service, May 22, 2000

CHICAGO - Violent spring storms that swept across the central United States slammed Northern Illinois with tree-toppling winds on Thursday, killing at least one person, breaking car windows with hail that hit with machine gun force and cutting off electrical power to thousands.

Police in Wilmette north of Chicago said a 69-year-old man, identified as Richard Kemper, was killed when a tree limb crashed into his car during one of the storms.

Hail that fell in blinding sheets broke car windows in Lake Forrest, another northern Chicago suburb, and hundreds of trees were downed in Arlington Heights, Palatine and other communities north and west of the city.

Commonwealth Edison said more than 100,000 customers lost power at the peak of the storms, but service was being restored. Chicago's two major airports - O'Hare International and Midway - were slowed to a crawl, with delays of two hours and more, and flight cancellations. Some roads in suburban areas were closed by high water.

The violent weather came from a spring storm system that spawned numerous tornadoes from Colorado east to the Great Lakes, and even snow in western areas.

The Storm Prediction Centre at Norman, Oklahoma, said earlier it had reports of 27 tornadoes in the previous 24 hours, most of them on the sparsely populated high plains of eastern Colorado.

But tornado watches and warnings were sounded in Indiana and areas to the east into the night.


At Detroit's metropolitan airport, nine workers were injured earlier in the day when lightning struck a ground control tower under construction and apparently travelled to other parts of a steel construction site.

All workers were conscious, said Barbara Hogan, spokeswoman for the airport. Seven were taken to a hospital but two refused treatment, she added.

In Nebraska on Wednesday a tornado ripped through six farmhouses near the small town of Maxwell during the late afternoon on Wednesday, leveling one home and sending a woman and her daughter to the hospital with lacerations from flying debris, said Lincoln County Emergency Management spokesman Tim Hergenrader.

"There were other tornadoes around but Lincoln County appeared to get the lion's share of the damage," Hergenrader said. No serious injuries or deaths were reported.

In Colorado, as much as six inches (15.2 cm) of hail piled up, according to The Weather Channel. The cable TV channel also said several inches of snow fell in parts of Colorado and Wyoming, closing some roads.

Heavy rains - 4 inches (10.1 cm) or more in some cases - fell on parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota, causing flash floods.

High waters closed some roads around La Crosse, Wisconsin, and forecasters said more flooding was likely because small streams were on the rise.

In Milwaukee, a sudden wind gust was being blamed for causing a small corporate jet to leave a runway while landing on Thursday.