WASHINGTON, Ill —
About 90 minutes after the tornado destroyed homes in Washington, the storm darkened downtown Chicago. As the rain and high winds slammed into the area, officials at Soldier Field evacuated the stands and ordered the Bears and Baltimore Ravens off the field. Fans were allowed back to their seats shortly after 2 p.m., and the game resumed after about a two-hour delay.
Earlier, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications had issued a warning to fans, urging them "to take extra precautions and ... appropriate measures to ensure their personal safety."
Just how many tornadoes hit was unclear. Although about 80 reports of tornadoes had come in as of Sunday night, Bill Bunting of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the actual number will likely be in the 30 to 40 range.
He said that's because the same tornado often gets reported multiple times.
When the weather service was issuing its warning that severe weather was bearing down on the Midwest, officials said the last such warning issued so late in the season in November came in 2005, and the result was an outbreak of 49 tornadoes.
Sunday's storms followed warnings by the weather service that they were simply moving too fast for people to wait until they saw the weather to get ready.
"This is a very dangerous situation," said Russell Schneider, director of the Storm Prediction Center. Some 53 million people in 10 states were "at significant risk for thunderstorms and tornadoes," he said.
The White House issued a statement saying President Barack Obama had been briefed about the damage and was in touch with federal, state and local officials.
Such severe weather this late in the season also carries the risk of surprise.
"People can fall into complacency because they don't see severe weather and tornadoes, but we do stress that they should keep a vigilant eye on the weather and have a means to hear a tornado warning because things can change very quickly," said Matt Friedlein, a weather service meteorologist.