A tornado touched down near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport Wednesday evening, forcing passengers to shelter and disrupting hundreds of flights. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
A confirmed tornado was on the ground around 7 p.m., according to the National Weather Service in Chicago.
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“This tornado has hit the ground intermittently so far and is moving to the east. There are additional circulations along the line south of O’Hare. Seek shelter if you are in the alerted area,” it said.
By 8 p.m., the weather service said the Chicago forecast area was “currently tornado warning-free.” It said the storm was moving east toward southwestern Michigan, and a tornado watch was in effect for parts of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio through Thursday morning.
Video footage from TV stations showed hundreds of people seeking refuge in an O’Hare hall. Some 173 flights departing from the airport were canceled and more than 500 were delayed, according to flight tracking service FlightAware.
Kevin Bargnes, director of communications for O’Hare and Chicago Midway International Airport, told WGN-TV Wednesday night that no damage has been reported at either airport.
The National Weather Service issued two tornado warnings for Chicago on Wednesday night. Tornado sirens warned people to seek shelter.
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Longtime Chicago resident Lynn Becker posted a video to Twitter showing tornado sirens blaring across the city’s iconic skyline.
“I’m in a 60-story apartment building, so my options are somewhat limited,” he said. “We should, I suppose, get to the core of the building.”
Becker said news of the storm was seen on local media.
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“There’s a certain amount of panic when you look at a TV screen and everything is in the red, but the hope is that the damage is minimal,” he said.
Local news outlets said warehouses were reportedly damaged near O’Hare.
The weather service quoted an unidentified emergency manager as saying a roof was blown off in the community of Huntley in McHenry County, northwest of Chicago. Huntley battalion chief Mike Pierce told ABC-7-TV that firefighters and other emergency services responded to downed power lines, trees and tree limbs, and that power outages had been reported. Building damage appeared to be centered around two apartment buildings, he said.
More than 10,000 customers in the region were without power, according to poweroutage.us.
In Hodgkins, southwest of Chicago, police said storm damage and debris had been found on the north side of town, near a shopping center.
Earlier on Wednesday, the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center had said there was an increased risk of severe weather, including tornadoes in northern Illinois, including Chicago.
Brett Borchardt, senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service, confirmed to WGN-TV that multiple tornadoes touched down in the Chicago area. He said measuring the damage will likely take days.
Over the years, many tornadoes have struck in the Chicago metropolitan area, and several within the Chicago city limits, according to the National Weather Service. Between 1855 and 2021, the Weather Service recorded 97 significant tornadoes in the Chicago metro area.
The deadliest occurred on April 21, 1967 in Palos Hills in Cook County. The twister traveled 16 miles through Oak Lawn and Chicago’s south side, killing 33 people, injuring 500 and causing more than $50 million in damage, according to the Weather Service.