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At least three people are dead as over 70 unconfirmed tornadoes touch down across the Midwest

At least 79 unconfirmed tornadoes touch down across the U.S. Midwest, killing at least three

Digital writers

Monday, November 18, 2013, 8:22 AM -

TUNE IN: We're following the situation in the United States, as well the thunderstorm risk in Ontario, throughout the day on television.

As Ontario braces for strong winds and late-season thunderstorms, a huge stretch of the Midwestern United States braces for a late-season tornado outbreak.

Intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities, killing at least three people and even prompting officials at Chicago's Soldier Field to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game.

Melanie Arnold of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency says one person was killed in Washington, Illinois, when a tornado struck that central Illinois community on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, the county coroner in Washington County in southern Illinois said that an elderly man and his sister died when a tornado struck their farm house in the town of New Minden, about 80 km southeast of St. Louis.

In central Illinois, the town of Washington appeared particularly hard-hit, with one resident saying his neighbourhood was wiped out in a matter of seconds by a tornado.

By mid-afternoon it remained unclear how many people were hurt. 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.''

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., and the game resumed after about a two-hour delay.

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.'' NFL games in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh also could be affected by the rough weather.

Just how many tornadoes hit was unclear Sunday afternoon. According to the National Weather Services' website, a total of 59 tornadoes had been reported, the bulk of them in Illinois.

But meteorologists say the total might fall because emergency workers, tornado spotters and others often report the same tornado.

Other places such as Detroit, Indianapolis and Nashville are also seeing severe weather.

Here at home, winds across southern Ontario began picking up in the late afternoon hours.

A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for areas of extreme southwestern Ontario as the storm pushes northeast.

Residents are urged to monitor our Alerts page and watch The Weather Network on TV for live updates, as any severe thunderstorm is capable of producing a tornado if conditions are right.

Tornado reports as of 9 p.m. EST

Tornado reports as of 9 p.m. EST

Are November tornadoes common?

Since the 1980s, November has seen on only four "high risk situations" where severe weather, including tornado outbreaks, was considered highly probable in the United States.

None of those systems produced less than 17 tornadoes, more than Ontario's entire annual average.

According to The Weather Channel's Severe Weather Expert Dr. Greg Forbes, the second half of October, and particularly November, can often be a second season for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

"In many ways, this is the counterpart to spring, when strong fronts and upper-air systems march across the United States. When enough warm, moist air accompanies these weather systems, the unstable conditions yield severe thunderstorms and sometimes tornadoes," said Forbes on The Weather Channel website on Sunday. 

See more on the Top 5 Largest November Tornado Outbreaks on The Weather Channel website.

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