Much of Washington Ill., was in ruins Monday, one of the worst hit areas ravaged by tornadoes that left a path of at least six dead and sizable destruction across several Midwest states.
Hundreds of thousands of people, most in Michigan, remained without electricity. Roads had flooded and were being slowly restored while thousands of people had sought shelter with relatives or in shelters after the wave of late-season storms, including more than 80 tornadoes, tore through parts of at least 12 states. Beginning Sunday morning, fierce winds and heavy rainfall hit Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and western New York.
The worst was over by Monday morning and the fast-moving storm front quickly moved eastward out to the Atlantic Ocean, leaving destruction, death and at least 54 injuries in its wake.
“Devastation. Sadness. People that lost everything,” Washington Mayor Gary Manier said to Chris Cuomo on CNN's “New Day,” one of several television appearances the mayor made on Monday, the day after severe storms ripped through his city. The tornado was estimated at EF-4, carrying winds of more than 170 mph.
Video images showed significant devastation, with houses and buildings in rubble, and vehicles upended in the wake of the storms. In one of the shots from Washington, a ragged U. S. flag kept a lonely vigil over the debris.
Manier estimated that 250 to 500 homes were either damaged or destroyed in the storm and that it wasn't clear when residents would be allowed to return.
“Everybody's without power, but some people are without everything,” Manier told reporters in the parking lot of a destroyed auto parts store and near a row of flattened homes. “How people survived is beyond me.”
Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn, who will tour the devastation on Monday, declared seven counties disaster areas, including Tazewell County, where Washington, a city of some 15,000, is located. Washington is just west of Peoria and about 140 miles southwest of Chicago.
The storm there hit about 11 a.m., when much of the town was at church. One person died in the city and more than 50 were treated in a hospital in Peoria.
At its height, the storm front stretched across three miles, according to the National Weather Service.
In Nashville, Ill., about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis, two people died when a tornado with estimated peak winds and three people in far southern Illinois died from what was believed to be a tornado there, two in the Brookport area and one in Unionville. Winds were so intense that trucks were flipped over on a highway some 80 miles from Chicago, the Ogle County Sheriff's Office said.
In Missouri, state emergency officials said a tornado may have hit Scott County, where heavy winds overturned three rail cars and blew over four mobile homes. The mayor of Kokomo, Ind., declared a state of emergency and closed schools Monday.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is scheduled to tour the storm damage Monday. More than 160,000 people are without power across the state.
Illinois was the hardest struck with at least six people killed and dozens more injured. The Illinois National Guard assisted with search and recovery operations in Washington.
The White House issued a statement saying President Obama had been briefed about the damage and was in touch with federal, state and local officials. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he was prepared to push Congress to help with aid, which has been a bit of a political football during past storms such as Superstorm Sandy. “While we don't yet know the full extent of the damage, it is clear that coordinated local, state and federal resources will be needed to rebuild. I stand ready to work with my colleagues in that effort.”
Exactly how many tornadoes hit the region will depend on surveys that will be continued on Monday. The initial report said 80 tornadoes had hit, but some may be duplicate reports.
It is unusual for the storm to come this late in the season. The last time such severe weather warnings were issued in November was in 2005, according to the weather service.