Midwest Hit By Most Powerful Windstorm in 70 Years
Midwest hit by 'huge wind machine'
At least 4 likely twisters reported; 300 O'Hare flights canceled in what could be worst Illinois storm in 70 years
NBC, msnbc.com and news services, Oct. 26, 2010
CHICAGO — Strong wind and torrential rain buffeted the Midwest on Tuesday as forecasters predicted the giant storm could be the most powerful to hit Illinois in over seven decades.
By Tuesday morning, possible twisters had been reported across the region and tens of thousands had lost electricity as fallen trees downed power lines. Commonweatlh Edison said 62,000 customers were without power in the Chicago area alone. In Indiana, more than 40,000 lost power.
In Kokomo, Ind., a suspected twister damaged homes and the downtown area had lost power.
In Wanatah, Ind., a suspected tornado destroyed a home and barn. A 74-year-old woman living in the home was not injured.
Three people in a home near Peotone, Ill., suffered minor injuries when the roof was ripped off by what could have been a twister.
In Sturtevant, Wis., initial reports indicated a twister caused severe damage to several homes and businesses but no injuries.
With winds nearing hurricane strength, the massive storm muscled its way across an area that stretched from the Dakotas to the eastern Great Lakes, where waves up to 25 feet were predicted along with some beach erosion.
Severe thunderstorm warnings blanketed much of the Midwest, and tornado watches were issued from Arkansas to Ohio.
Some 300 flights were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, a major hub for American and United airlines. O'Hare as well as Midway also reported delays.
"We have a huge wind machine," the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore reported from Minneapolis, Minn. "You have the potential to gust to hurricane force, easily ... and that is what we're expecting."
The National Weather Service said the storm is one of the strongest to hit the region in decades.
"We're expecting sustained winds on the order of 35 to 40 mph with gusts up to 60 mph throughout the afternoon," said Edward Fenelon, a weather service meteorologist in Romeoville, Ill. He said the storm's central pressure is equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane.
"This is a very different type of event," Fenelon said. "But that does give an indication of the magnitude of the winds. This isn't something you see even every year."
Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Allsopp said the storm could be among the worst to hit Illinois in more than 70 years.
Commuters in the Chicago area faced blustery, wind-driven rain as they waited for trains to take them downtown before dawn. Some huddled underneath train overpasses to stay out of the gusts, dashing to the platform at the last minute.
In the city's downtown Loop, construction workers wore heavy slickers and held onto their hard-hats, heavy metal streets signs rattled against their posts and umbrellas provided relief only for as long as they could last.
"The wind was almost blowing horizontally. The rain was slapping me in the face," said Anthony Quit, a 24-year-old jewelry store worker in Chicago. "My umbrella shot off ... It was pretty dangerous."
He said the wind was so strong that his car "was starting to veer off the road."
Another commuter described a frightening pre-dawn drive to the train station.
"It was raining really, really hard. Coming down the street I was kind of getting really nervous; even with the bright lights you couldn't see in front of you," said Delphine Thompson, 53, a telecom manager in Chicago.
The weather service said gusts that topped 50 miles per hour slammed into the Chicago suburb of Lombard early Tuesday.
The storm was also picking up speed on Twitter, where people were dubbing it "Chiclone" and "Windpocalypse."
In St. Louis, pre-dawn strong winds were blamed for a partial building collapse that sent bricks, mortar, roofing and some window air-conditioning units raining down onto a sidewalk. No one was injured, and inspectors were inspecting the 1920s-era building.
In Ballwin, a St. Louis suburb, a woman escaped with minor injuries when a tree fell onto her home as she slept, covering her and her husband with dust and insulation. The family managed to get out of the house and call emergency responders.
In Milwaukee, some restaurants moved sidewalk furniture indoors as the storm approached and homeowners scrambled to batten down anything that might be swept away by the storm.
Meanwhile, much of North Dakota was under a blizzard warning. The National Weather Service said up to 10 inches of snow could fall in some areas into early Wednesday.
The snow is expected across North Dakota and into northern South Dakota. Forecasters said wind gusts of more than 50 mph in many areas would make travel treacherous.
Fenelon of the National Weather Service said the winds will subside Tuesday evening but could pick up again on Wednesday.
Eleven states are under a high wind warning. Those states are: Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Ohio and parts of Kentucky.
With a nod to the coming weekend, Jodi WhiteJones in Chicago said she hoped the storm wouldn't lead to a Halloween-related disaster.
"Everyone in Chicago is used to foul weather but with this type of wind I just hope nobody gets hurt by things falling from buildings, flying pumpkins, debris," said the 41-year-old assistant college dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Storm brings wind, rain to Midwest, South
The Associated Press, Oct. 27, 2010
CHICAGO — A massive storm making its way through a big chunk of the nation brought a bit of everything: strong winds, rain, tornadoes and now even some snow for parts of the Midwest.
The storm packed wind gusts of up to 81 mph Tuesday as it howled across the Midwest and South, snapping trees and power lines, ripping off roofs and delaying flights. The storm continued its trek early Wednesday, with snow falling in the Dakotas and Minnesota. More strong winds were in the forecast in several other states.
National Weather Service reports indicate as much as 8 inches of snow fell in North Dakota. Linnea Reeves, a Walmart employee in Bismarck, N.D., said the snow has already made roads hazardous in her neighborhood.
"The weather is not very nice out here. The winds are picking up and it's very snowy very slick," Reeves said. "I've got my snow shovel in my car in case I get stuck."
A blizzard warning was in effect Wednesday for North Dakota, where up to 10 inches was expected in some areas. Lighter snow was expected in Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota.
The unusual system mesmerized meteorologists because of its size and because it had barometric pressure that was similar to a Category 3 hurricane, but with much less destructive power.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the system's pressure reading Tuesday was among the lowest ever in a non-tropical storm in the mainland U.S. Spokeswoman Susan Buchanan said the storm was within the top five in terms of low pressure, which brings greater winds.
The fast-moving storm blew in from the Pacific Northwest on the strength of a jet stream that is about one-third stronger than normal for this time of year, said David Imy, operations chief at the NOAA's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. As the system moved into the nation's heartland, it drew in warm air needed to fuel thunderstorms. Then the winds intensified and tornadoes formed.
By Tuesday morning, sustained winds were about 35 to 40 mph and gusting much higher. A gust of 81 mph was recorded in Butlerville, Ohio, and 80 mph in Greenfield, Ind., according to NOAA.
Tornadoes whirled through Racine County, Wis., where two people were injured when a section of roof was torn off a tractor factory, and in Van Wert County, Ohio, near the Indiana border, where a barn was flattened and flipped over a tractor-trailer and camper. In Lincoln County, N.C., 11 people were injured and eight homes damaged when a possible tornado touched down, emergency management officials said. An apparent tornado on the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga, Tenn., caused an accident that led to the closure of the highway and injured several people. A tornado also touched down in Peotone, Ill., where three people were injured when a home’s roof came off, and twisters were suspected in several other states.
The National Weather Service confirmed that eight tornadoes struck in Indiana Tuesday, but that no serious damage or injuries were reported. It said Ohio saw three twisters.
Sheryl Uthemann, 49, was working first shift at the Case New Holland plant in Mount Pleasant, Wis., when the storm blew through and started to lift the roof.
"It was just a regular workday and all of a sudden that noise just came and (co-workers) said 'Run! Run! Run!' You didn't have time to think," she said. "I looked up where the noise was coming from and saw pieces of the roof sucked up. I've never been more scared, ever."
With rain falling in western Wisconsin, Xcel Energy was watching for the potential failure of a hydroelectric dam near Ladysmith after a small sinkhole developed in an earthen embankment. No evacuations were ordered. The dam is in a rural area on the Flambeau River.
In the Indiana town of Wanatah, about 60 miles southeast of Chicago, a pole barn at a hydraulics company was destroyed, and two homes were severely damaged, though no injuries were reported.
In suburban Chicago, Helen Miller, 41, was injured when a branch fell about 65 feet from a large tree, crashed into her car and impaled her abdomen. Doctors removed the branch and Miller's husband said she asked him to hang on to it.
"She wants to save it for an art project or something," Todd Miller told the Chicago Sun-Times. "She's a bit of a free spirit, so I ran with it."
Meteorologists said the storm's barometric pressure readings were comparable to those of a Category 3 hurricane but with much weaker winds. The wind gusts were only as strong as a tropical storm. Category 3 hurricanes have winds from 111 to 130 mph. If Tuesday's low-pressure system had been over water — where winds get higher — it would have created a major hurricane, Imy said.
About 500 flights were canceled and others delayed at O'Hare Airport, a major hub for American and United airlines. The storms also disrupted flights at the Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Minneapolis airports.
Chicago's 110-story Willis Tower, the nation's tallest building, closed the Skydeck observatory and retracted "The Ledge" attraction — four glass boxes that jut out from the building's 103rd floor.
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