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November 17, 2013

3:30 P.M. UPDATE: Tornadoes, damaging storms hit Midwest

(Continued)

CHICAGO —

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.

Earlier, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications issued a warning to fans, urging them "to take extra precautions and ... appropriate measures to ensure their personal safety."

The storm followed warnings by the National Weather Service of what was coming and that the storm was simply moving too fast for people to wait until they saw it to get ready.

"Our primary message is this is a dangerous weathers system that has the potential to be extremely deadly and destructive," said Laura Furgione, deputy director of the National Weather Service National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Get ready now."

Weather service officials confirmed that a tornado touched down just before 11 a.m. near the central Illinois community of East Peoria, about 150 miles southwest of Chicago, but authorities did not immediately have damage or injury reports. Within an hour, the weather service said that tornadoes had touched down in Washington, Metamora, Morton and other central Illinois communities, though officials could not say whether it was one tornado touching down or several.

"This is a very dangerous situation," said Russell Schneider, director of the weather service's Storm Prediction Center. "Approximately 53 million in 10 states are at significant risk for thunderstorms and tornadoes."

The potential severity of the storm 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.

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