A school bus driver and five students were injured with non life-threatening injuries when the bus was blown over by a tornado near Caledonia in a storm that brought heavy rain and strong winds to the Chicago area Monday afternoon.
Hog, soybean and corn farmer John Reid was outside just as the funnel cloud came overhead. After it passed, he said he saw the bus on its side.
"The bus driver said she was flying," Reid told NBC Chicago. "The bus was picked up by the wind and rolled into a tree. Had the tree not been there, the bus would have kept rolling."
He said the school kids were calm but some had been crying.
"There were injuries and some blood," he said.
Arriving rescue crews had to navigate around downed power lines.
The 1/2-mile wide twister was later confirmed to have hit near Argyle Road and Harlem Road, east of Rock Cut State Park, near Rockford.
Darryl Lindberg, the mayor of Loves Park, said the tornado that touched down just missed a heavily-populated residential area.
"Right where it touched down and did some damage to a farm building there, just south of there is a fairly large subdivision in our city, and that was not hit, so that's good news," said Lindberg.
He said about 40,000 people were without power in that community after high-tension power lines were twisted and brought down to the ground.
Another 11 high-tension wire towers were down in Winnebago County, brought down "like toothpicks," according to Steve Pearson, the chief of the North Park Fire Protection District.
Pearson said he was following his wife home when they saw the bus picked up and blown into the cornfield. His wife works in the medical field and assisted the five children and the bus driver.
Many of the customers without power were being brought back in stages Monday night. The Rockford-area electrical grid is built in a hub, ComEd said, so that an area that goes down can be isolated and circumvented.
Still, the repairs will "take days," crews said.
The tornado, or similar cells producing tornadoes, moved to the northeast over Boone and McHenry counties. A tornado was confirmed on the ground near Lawrence at about 3:15 p.m.
Two tornadoes were confirmed across the border in Southeastern Wisconsin: one in Union Grove, in Racine County, and another in Walworth County, the Racine Journal Times reported.
In Racine County, semi tractor-trailers were blown over near Hwy 20 and Interstate 94.
About a dozen customers at a hardware store in Union Grove told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they gathered in the middle of the store as a tornado swept through. The store manager said the roof of the village hall was blown off.
"You could hear the noise. It sounded like a freight train coming through town," said Cliff Baars, according to JSonline.com. "We are lucky it skirted us."
Another possible tornado was damaged homes near the Village of Fontana, near Lake Geneva, Wis., the Kenosha News reported.
Closer to home, the wild weather has made for a messy evening rush. Several Metra lines are running late, some as much as one hour to 90 minutes behind schedule, according to the transit system's website, MetraRail.com.
A flash flood warning is in effect for Cook and Will counties until 10 p.m.
It all comes in the midst of balmy, upper 60s temperatures in Chicago. Earlier in the day, the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for much of Northern Illinois.
The cold front will push through by Monday night and low temperatures with a chance of snow are expected for the rest of the week.