Rare storm ravages Midwest, leaves 1.1 million without power

A rare storm with hurricane-like, 100 mph winds left more than a million people without power Monday as it wreaked havoc across much of the Midwest — battering Chicago as it recovered from a night of chaos and widespread looting.

The derecho — which has the strength of a hurricane but hovers over a far wider area — flattened homes and flipped over vehicles as it spent several hours leaving a trail of damage from eastern Nebraska across Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois.

By Monday night, PowerOutage.us reported more than 1.1 people without power due to the storm — with more than 570,000 in Illinois.

“It ramped up pretty quick,” said Patrick Marsh, science support chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

“I don’t think anybody expected widespread winds approaching 100, 110 mph,” he said.

A derecho often causes more damage than even a tornado because it can hover in one place and its high winds can hit a far larger area, Marsh said.

Winds of 100 mph can stretch for “20, 30, 40 or God forbid, 100 miles,” he said.

What happened Monday morning was the result of unstable, very moist air that had parked for days over the northern plains – culminating  in a derecho.

“They are basically self-sustaining amoebas of thunderstorms,” Gensini said. “Once they get going like they did across Iowa, it’s really hard to stop these suckers.”

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