Chicago Weather

Severe weather leads to blowing dust, power outages in Chicago area as deadly tornadoes strike Iowa

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A large system of severe weather that brought deadly tornadoes to Iowa led to dust storms and power outages in the Chicago area, following a day of near record-high temperatures.

Officials in Iowa confirmed multiple fatalities from a tornado with "at least a dozen injuries," with a storm upending the small town of Greenfield, around 55 miles north of Des Moines.

The twister carved a bleak landscape of destroyed homes and businesses, shredded trees, smashed cars and widely strewn debris.

In the aftermath of the storm, parts of Greenfield appeared devastated. Mounds of broken wood, branches, car parts and other debris littered lots where homes once stood. Cars lay busted and bent while damaged houses sat skewed against the gray and overcast sky. Trees stood — barely — bereft of branches or leaves. Residents helped each other salvage furniture and other belongings from mounds of debris or from homes barely left standing.

Multiple tornadoes were reported throughout the state, and one also apparently took down several 250-foot (76 meters) wind turbines. Des Moines, Iowa, television station KCCI-TV showed at least three wind turbines that were toppled by an apparent tornado in southwest Iowa, and at least one was in flames with black smoke pluming from the bent structure.

Wind farms are built to withstand tornadoes, hurricanes and other powerful winds. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turbines are designed to shut off when winds exceed certain thresholds, typically around 55 mph (88.5 kph). They also lock and feather their blades, and turn into the wind, to minimize the strain.

Though the Chicago area has avoided the worst of possible severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, strong winds were likely the primary factor in widespread power outages, which left more than 12,000 ComEd customers without power in northern Illinois.

While over 4,000 outages were reported outside of the Chicago area in Stephenson County, hundreds were left in the dark in Lake and DuPage counties, with hundreds of outages reported in Cook County as well.

The threat for "widely scattered storms" will continue for the remainder of Tuesday evening, with gusty winds and hail serving as the primary threat for most of the region.

Some western suburbs were also impacted earlier Tuesday by dust storms, with freshly-tilled farmland and windy conditions contributing to extremely hazardous conditions on some Chicago-area roads.

The storms caused larger problems in downstate Illinois, with closures being initiated on I-55 in McLean County, with closures reported on I-74 as well.

The Chicago area will get a reprieve from both the heat and severe weather on Wednesday, with high temperatures falling back into the mid 70s with sunny skies and a limited chance of rainfall.

Temperatures will warm a bit as the week comes to an end, with highs in the low 80s anticipated for both Thursday and Friday alongside sunny skies.

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