Katharine Lackey and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
Weather officialsencouraged Midwestern residents to be prepared as a powerful, rapidly movingstorm system pounded the region Sunday.
National Weather Service officials confirmed several tornadoes touched down in Illinois, including one near East Peoria in central Illinois. No immediate injuries have been reported. Photos from the area showed devastating damage, however.
"This is a very dangerous situation," Russell Schneider, director of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center, told the Associated Press. "Approximately 53 million in 10 states are at significant risk for thunderstorms and tornadoes."
The Weather Channel says major cities including Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Louisville, Ky., were at the highest risk for severe weather. The cities where the threat of tornadoes is highest include Chicago and Indianapolis, AccuWeather reports.
The NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field was suspended due to the threat of severe weather.
Earlier Sunday, the National Weather Service issued a "high risk" alert of severe weather for eastern Illinois, Indiana, western Ohio and far southwest lower Michigan, with conditions favorable for a tornado outbreak and widespread damaging winds. About 18 million people live within the "high risk" area.
The agency says strong winds and atmospheric instability were expected to sweep across the central Plains during the day before pushing into the Mid-Atlantic states and northeast by later evening. The potential for strong and long-track tornadoescentered on the Ohio Valley and adjacent Midwestern states.
The Weather Channel's Greg Forbes issued TOR:CON tornado warning values as high as 7 for parts of Illinois and Indiana, indicating there is a 70% chance of a tornado within 50 miles of a location in that region.
The storms are expected to diminish in intensity Sunday night into Monday, but strong wind gusts will remain possible for parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, according to the Weather Channel.
Contributing: The Associated Press