UPDATE: Death toll from Midwest tornadoes reaches 8

By: Associated Press / ABC News Email
By: Associated Press / ABC News Email

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DETROIT (AP) -- UPDATE: Officials have confirmed two storm-related deaths in Michigan, raising to eight the toll from the heavy rain, powerful winds and tornadoes that formed across the region.

The Shiawassee County sheriff's department says 59-year-old Philip Daniel Smith of Perry in central Michigan was found dead and entangled in high-voltage power wires after going outside late Sunday to investigate a noise.

Also in central Michigan, Jackson County Sheriff Steven Rand says 21-year-old Ryan Allan Rickman of Leslie died when his vehicle was crushed by a fallen tree Sunday evening.

A band of storms moved across the Midwest on Sunday, unleashing powerful winds that flattened homes and left cars, trees and belongings strewn across neighborhoods. Officials say the storms also killed six people in Illinois.

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Severe storms and tornadoes tore across the Midwest today, causing severe damage and killing at least six people.

A massive storm system tore across Illinois around noon, causing widespread damage and forcing officials to evacuate the crowd of approximately 60,000 at Chicago's Soldier Field during a Bears football game.

Jonathon Monken, the director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency said late this afternoon that an elderly couple was killed in Nashville, Ill., and another person was killed in Washington.

Officials announced during the evening that three more people were killed in Massac County, bringing the total to six.

At least 37 people were injured in the storms, although officials said they expect that number to rise significantly.

In Peoria, Ill., the St. Francis Medical Center told ABC News station WLS-TV there were 24 patients being treated for storm-related injuries.

By late afternoon the storm system was traveling through Indiana and a tornado watch had been issued by the National Weather Service for multiple states, including Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan.

In Illinois, the town of Washington appeared to have been severely damaged by a tornado. Photos posted to Twitter and Facebook from the residents showed entire buildings apparently flattened by the storms.

In a news release, the Illinois National Guard said it had dispatched 10 firefighters and three vehicles to Washington to assist with "immediate search and recovery operations in the tornado damaged area."

Michael Perdun a resident of Washington, Ill., said his entire neighborhood was wiped out by the storm.

"I stepped outside and I heard it coming. My daughter was already in the basement, so I ran downstairs and grabbed her, crouched in the laundry room and all of a sudden I could see daylight up the stairway and my house was gone," Perdun said in an interview with The Associated Press on his cell phone.

"The whole neighborhood's gone, (and) the wall of my fireplace is all that is left of my house," he said.

Drew Beenders said he was in church in Washington when the storm hit and the service had to be stopped.

"It looks like a bomb just went off," Beenders wrote on Twitter before posting a picture of the storm damage.

In Chicago, residents were warned to stay off the streets as the strongest winds, approaching 60 miles per hours, swept through the area.

By mid-afternoon at least 230 flights had been cancelled from Chicago's O'Hare airport.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency said they were responding to at least 11 counties that have reported tornado touchdowns.

The Ameren company, which provides electricity throughout Illinois, told ABC News radio that 144,500 people were without power throughout Illinois.

The ComEd electric company, which serves the Chicago area, told WLS-TV that there had been 79,000 outages.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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