Hailstones as big as baseballs pummeled northern Illinois on Tuesday, when a rare winter tornado raked the area, killing at least one person, the National Weather Service said.
The tornado struck near Ottawa, a town of about 19,000 people, 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Chicago, killing at least one person, meteorologist Amy Seeley said by telephone. She had no further details.
The La Salle News Tribune reported power outages and heavy damage to a nursing home and other buildings. There were minor injuries in the nearby village of Naplate, a fire official told the newspaper.
— Jacob DeFlitch (@WxDeFlitch) March 1, 2017
The February tornado was a rarity in Illinois, she said, although several January tornadoes had struck the area in 2008.
“It is unusual but it has happened before,” Seeley added.
Tornado spotters reported 21 twister sightings in Illinois and Missouri on Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service said.
The storms flipped over cars along an interstate and took down trees and power lines just north of Perryville. A Missouri community of 8,000 people about 80 miles (130 km) south of St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Around 8 pm Tuesday night a tornado hit the northern part of Perry County Missouri.
— Jeff Blair (@jblair_) March 1, 2017
The tornado caused significant damage in an area near Highway 51 & 61, I-55 around mile marker 133 and State Road N & Highway T. Several vehicles were blown off roadways in the area. Some vehicle thrown onto the interstate were cars from a salvage yard and had already been crushed.
— FOX 32 News (@fox32news) March 1, 2017
First responder from Perry and Jefferson County have responded to the scene. Authorities confirmed 1 person was killed during the storm. A number of injuries occurred when the tornado struck throwing vehicles off the interstate.
Injured people could be seen walking out of ditches and woods
Further north on I-55 semi-tractor trailers were picked up and thrown from the interstate. While homes and businesses in the area around Highway 51 and 61 suffered severe damage and/or destroyed.
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) March 1, 2017
The area affected on I-55 is nearly a quarter mile long and wide. Because of the debris, the interstate will remain closed once the road is cleared of vehicles.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has set-up a command post at I-55 and Highway M.
Because of the damage in county, school officials from the Perry County School District 32 have cancelled classes for Wednesday.
Governor Greitens Statement on Perryville Tornado
Tough and tragic news tonight out of Perryville where there are confirmed reports of a tornado touching down.
State Emergency Management was monitoring severe weather in the region and was prepared to respond to any situation.
Already deployed is strike teams and resources, and this community should know that the full weight and support of the state of Missouri is behind you.
Caution throughout the night is urged.
There is a tornado watch in effect until 4 AM for the following counties. Bollinger, Butler, Cape Girardeau, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, Ripley, Scott, Stoddard, and Wayne.
If you or a loved one live in these counties, please be alert, vigilant, and safe tonight.
Tornado on the ground 10 miles north of me these are from a buddy of mine out running it on his way back to his farm pic.twitter.com/2vMDHcJDBh
— Josh Schick (@JoshSchick3) March 1, 2017
We will continue to work with public safety officials throughout the night, and we will update everyone as additional information comes in. Please keep the people affected by this storm in your prayers tonight.