A fast-moving storm system triggered multiple tornadoes on Sunday, killing at least five people, injuring about 40 and flattening large parts of the city of Washington, Illinois as it tore across the Midwest, officials said.
"It's a sad day in Washington. The devastation is just unbelievable. You just can't imagine. It looks like a war zone in our community," said Washington Mayor Gary Manier.
"It's kind of widespread and went right through our community of 15,000 people," he added, saying hundreds of homes in the town, 145 miles southwest of Chicago, had been destroyed.
A storm has battered St Louis, Missouri, as forecasters warned that a fast-moving weather system could threaten some 53 million people across 10 Midwestern US states.
The severe weather was also headed towards Chicago, threatening a large swath of the Midwest with dangerous winds, thunderstorms and hail, weather officials said.
The one tornado that has hit the US so far, which touched down outside Peoria, Illinois, would affect mainly rural areas, with mobile homes likely to be destroyed and trees likely to be uprooted or snapped, the weather service said.
A "large and extremely dangerous" tornado has hit the city of Washington, Illinois, with pictures showing buildings reduced to rubble and homes torn in half in a city of 15,000 people some 145 miles away from Chicago.
The National Weather Service also confirmed tornadoes touched down near Bone Gap and Miller City, Illinois, in Mount Carmel, Indiana, near the Ohio border, in Vincennes, Indiana, and in Paducah, Kentucky.
A tornado watch for the Chicago metropolitan area was cancelled.
Sara Sparkman, a spokeswoman for the health department of Tazewell County, Illinois, where Washington is located, said: "We have reports of homes being flattened, roofs being torn off.
"We have actual whole neighborhoods being demolished by the storm. Fortunately, we are only hearing of minor injuries at this time."
A fast-moving weather system was threatening 53 million people in the US Midwest with one tornado already reported and the potential for dangerous winds and thunderstorms across 10 states, weather officials said.
A 'tornado watch' is in place in all of the yellow areas on the map
Deputy director of the National Weather Service Laura Furgione said: "We obviously have a very dangerous situation on our hands and it's just getting started."
A large tornado touched down in Illinois today as an expansive storm threatened parts of the Midwest, US meteorologists said.
A "very dangerous" weather system, which could spawn tornadoes, thunderstorms and damaging winds, would put 53 million people in the US at significant risk, Reuters reports citing the US National Weather Service said.