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Tornado Strikes Central Illinois

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(STMW) – A tornado touched down in central Illinois Sunday with a tornado warning in effect for Will County and heavy rain and gusty winds expected in Chicago.

The tornado touched down about 11 a.m. in central Illinois and affected the towns of Pekin, East Peoria, Washington and Dana, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Friedlein said. Strong winds and hail have also struck Mazon, which is 60 miles southwest of Chicago.

A tornado warning is in effect until 1 p.m. in Will County, Friedlein said. The far south suburbs may be affected by this storm, which has a history of tornadoes.

Storms with heavy rain and gusty winds are expected to affect Chicago and DuPage County, Freidlein said.

The tornado watch will remain in effect in Cook and surrounding counties until 4 p.m.,according to the National Weather Service

The tornado warning for McHenry County has been cancelled, according to the National Weather Service.

As of 11 a.m., storms have reached the LaSalle and Peoria counties and are continuing northeast towards the Chicago area, NWS meteorologist Ed Fenlon said. Thunderstorms remain in the Winnebago, Boone and McHenry counties.

Officials expect “explosive thunderstorm development” to continue until 3 p.m. Sunday moving east over northern Illinois and northwest Indiana, according to the National Weather Service. The threat of severe weather should be east of the Chicago region after 6 p.m.

Winds are expected to reach 50-60 miles per hour, Fenlon said.

Rain will be torrential, but because winds are moving fast it will likely not last for more than 30 minutes in one location, NWS meteorologist Gino Izzi said. There’s a slight threat of hail, but the threat of tornado is higher.

Residents are encouraged to pay attention to the weather and have a place go for shelter within minutes, Fenlon said.

“Sixty-five degrees in November at 9 a.m. is not typical,” Fenlon said. “Warm moist air and powerful winds are making a stage for tornadoes.”

The city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications issued an alert urging Bears fans attending the game to take extra precautions to ensure their safety.

The dept. is monitoring the weather and working with the Chicago Bears organization and Soldier Field staff to ensure the safety, according to the alert. OEMC staff is inside the stadium’s command center for all major events. Soldier Field also has the ability to broadcast messages throughout the stadium.

There is also shelter inside the stadium for fans if necessary, the alert said.

“I would be pretty nervous if I were going to the Bears game today,” Izzi said. “This environment is incredibly favorable for tornadoes.”

There’s a high probability that a tornado will touch ground somewhere in Illinois or northwest Indiana, Izzi said. Chicago is “definitely” within that “cone of uncertainty.”

“The storms will be moving so quickly, you could go from weather that’s fine to literally a tornado within a few minutes,” Izzi said. “They’ll be moving faster than some people drive.”

The NWS has been in contact with the Chicago Office of Emergency Management, the Cook County Homeland Security and Emergency Management office and emergency managers from across northern Illinois, Izzi said.

Light rain is expected to continue into Monday, but the thunderstorms should move out by late afternoon Sunday, he said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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