(Reuters) - Tornadoes and storms packed with baseball-size hail raked the U.S. Midwest on Tuesday, killing at least two people, destroying homes and leaving thousands without power, the National Weather Service and media reported.
A 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.
Another person was killed near Perryville, a Missouri community of 8,000 people about 80 miles (130 km) south of St. Louis, where storms flipped over cars along an interstate and took down trees and power lines, media reported.
“Tough and tragic news tonight out of Perryville where there are confirmed reports of a tornado touching down,” Missouri Governor Eric Greitens said in a statement on Facebook.
News outlets in southern Illinois and eastern Missouri showed footage of rescue workers digging through destroyed homes and clearing debris from highways.
“Freaking out over tornado sirens in my basement with a 7 month old and three dogs,” Kristie Foote in Jasper, Indiana, said on Twitter. “I guess we will be having a slumber party down here.”
More than 14,000 customers were without power in the region, according to information on electric company websites.
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.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner activated the state’s emergency operations center to assist with recovery efforts. Area emergency officials could not be reached for comment.
Tornado spotters reported 23 twister sightings in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Tennessee and Indiana on Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service said.
Seeley said the storm front weakened as it moved east into Indiana after pounding the Ottawa area with baseball-sized hail and high winds.
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.
Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Nick Macfie