A tornado brought chaos to a tiny northern Illinois town, killing one person, injuring eight more and sweeping homes off their foundations, as large storm system rumbled across much of the country.
DeKalb County Sheriff Roger A. Scott said in a news release early Friday that 15 to 20 homes in Fairdale were destroyed by the twister that hit the ground around 7 p.m. Thursday.
Matthew Knott, division chief for the Rockford Fire Department, told The Associated Press that just about every building in the town about 80 miles northwest of Chicago "sustained damage of some sort."
A 67-year-old woman was found dead inside her home, DeKalb County coroner Dennis Miller told reporters early Friday. Scott said of the 150 Fairdale residents, another eight were taken to hospitals after the storm hit.
Authorities expressed confidence that there would be no more victims found in the devastated town but that they would be working to account for every resident Friday. All homes were evacuated and power was out across the area. The Red Cross and Salvation Army established a shelter at a high school.
Matt Friedlein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Friday that at least two tornadoes swept through six north-central Illinois counties, and that damage survey teams would visit the area to determine how long they stayed on the ground, their strength and the extent of the damage.
After raking Illinois, Thursday's storm and cold front headed northeast, dumping snow in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and sweeping across the Ohio Valley overnight, Friedlein said. The system was headed into the Appalachian region Friday morning with the potential for severe thunderstorms but "not anywhere near the threat" that it packed in the Midwest, he said.
Kirkland Community Fire District Chief Chad Connell said he watched the tornado move toward Fairdale from his porch.
"I've never seen anything like it in my life," he said, almost lost for words.
Some 20 additional homes were severely damaged or destroyed in Ogle County, adjacent to DeKalb, Sheriff Brian Van Vickle said, adding no deaths or significant injuries were reported there.
Van Vickle said 12 people were trapped in the storm cellar beneath a restaurant that collapsed in the storm in Rochelle, about 20 miles southwest of Fairdale.
One of those rescued from the Grubsteakers restaurant, Raymond Kramer, 81, told Chicago's WLS-TV they were trapped for 90 minutes before emergency crews were able to rescue them, unscathed.
"No sooner did we get down there, when it hit the building and laid a whole metal wall on top of the doors where we went into the storm cellar," Kramer said. "When the tornado hit, we all got a dust bath. Everyone in there got shattered with dust and debris falling out of the rafters."
The severe weather, the region's first widespread bout, forced the cancellation of more than 850 flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Thursday and dozens of others at the city's Midway International Airport. The outlook was much improved Friday, although about 90 flights at the city's two airports were cancelled and dozens of delays were expected.
Elsewhere, a severe thunderstorm Thursday night damaged the roof of a nursing home in Longview, East Texas, and prompted the evacuation of about 75 residents. No one was hurt but thousands of homes in the area were without electricity after the high winds downed power lines and trees.
Associated Press writers Herb McCann, Don Babwin and Michael Tarm contributed to this report from Chicago.