Flooding, tornadoes in Midwest as storms continue

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Powerful storms spawned by intense heat and humidity produced flooding and tornadoes in the Midwestern United States on Saturday, disrupting travel and cutting power to thousands of homes.

The National Weather Service said more than 7.5 inches of rain -- the amount the city would see over two months during a normal summer -- fell at Midway Airport in Chicago in the past day.

“A large area is being impacted by this system,” said Jack Hales, a weather service forecaster based in Norman, Oklahoma.

“But some of the heavier rain totals ... have been in Chicago. The water content in the atmosphere is very high.”

The National Weather Service issued severe weather alerts for many areas in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, and flood watches for dozens of counties.

Forecasters said a similar weather pattern was developing in Pennsylvania and New York, where a rare tornado watch was issued late on Friday for New York City and northern New Jersey.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said the Eisenhower Expressway, which connects Chicago with its western suburbs, was closed by flooding just after dawn. The Chicago Transit Authority said service was disrupted on at least half of its train routes and many buses were rerouted.

About 50,000 customers were without power in northeastern Illinois on Saturday, the utility Commonwealth Edison said.

In Iowa, a tornado touched down late on Friday near the town of Indianola in central Iowa, damaging property but causing no injuries.

Dan Sheets of the National Weather Service said that over the last three days, six to 10 inches of rain had fallen in the northeastern corner of Iowa.

Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency on Friday after torrential rains flooded homes and opened sinkholes in Milwaukee and closed the city’s main airport.

Additional reporting by Kay Henderson in Des Moines, Iowa, and Karl Plume and Andrew Stern in Chicago; Editing by Jerry Norton and Will Dunham