June 13, 2013 / 12:55 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 4-Violent storm spawns Midwest tornadoes, heads east

(Updates with storm skirting Chicago, heading to eastern U.S.)
    By Greg McCune
    CHICAGO, June 12 (Reuters) - A violent storm swept across
the upper Midwest on Wednesday and headed toward the U.S. East
Coast, spawning several tornadoes as well as damaging hail and
high winds, but skirted Chicago without doing major damage.
    The storm had been described by the National Weather Service
as "very dangerous" because of its potential to produce
tornadoes and "derechos" - storms in which wind speeds increase
as they move.
    The threat caused transportation chaos in Chicago, America's
third largest city. Many people left work early from high-rise
buildings in order to beat the storm home, and others were stuck
in traffic jams or on trains delayed by the weather.
    The worst of the storm and the high winds passed just south
of Chicago.
    "So far we have lucked out and have not had the intense
corridor of damaging winds," said John Hart, a meteorologist
with the weather service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman,
    Numerous tornado warnings were issued for parts of the
Midwest, and the weather service website showed 16 reports of
tornadoes, including twisters in Iowa, Illinois and Ohio. A
tornado warning tells residents to find shelter immediately.
    Benjamin Jeffers, 18, an employee at the Belmond Country
Club in Iowa, about 95 miles (150 km) north of Des Moines, said
he and coworkers fled to the basement after one of two funnel
clouds approached.
    "Debris started flying around the golf course and it started
to get real close and the other one started to get way big," he
said. "It sounded like a big train without the horn. A rumble
kind of." The club escaped damage, he said.
    Stefanie Bond, spokeswoman for the Iowa Emergency Management
department, said four tornadoes were reported in Wright County,
Iowa, where a couple of businesses and a home were destroyed. No
injuries or fatalities have been reported in the state, she
said. Another tornado was reported in Franklin County, she said.
    In Carroll County, Illinois west of Chicago, a dispatcher
said one person was injured but details were not immediately
    The storm was headed east to the Pittsburgh and Cleveland
areas later on Wednesday and to the East Coast by Thursday
morning, Hart said.
    The area facing the greatest threat of storms on Thursday,
including high winds and possible tornadoes, stretches from
eastern Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area north to
Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, Hart said.
    While the storm did not produce high winds and tornadoes in
the Chicago area, it did dump 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 cm) of rain
which could cause flash flooding in southern suburbs, the
weather service said.
    Four lines of Chicago's commuter rail service were halted
during the rush hour, but later resumed service. More than 360
flights were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare airport, one of the
world's busiest, and other flights were delayed, the Chicago
Department of Aviation said.
    An additional 55 flights were canceled at Chicago's Midway
    A Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert at a downtown park,
expected to be attended by thousands of music fans, was
canceled, and a Chicago White Sox baseball game was postponed.
    The Stanley Cup finals hockey game at the downtown United
Center went ahead as scheduled between the Chicago Blackhawks
and Boston Bruins, with some 20,000 fans in attendance.
    The U.S. tornado season was relatively quiet until May 20, 
when a monster EF5 storm, the highest rating, hit the Oklahoma
city suburb of Moore, killing 24 people and flattening whole
sections of the town. Another wave of storms hit Oklahoma on May
31, killing about 20 people.

 (Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien, Mary Wisniewski and
Renita Young; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer, David Brunnstrom and
Mohammad Zargham)

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