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."
More top news
The Senate has advanced a bill to reopen federal agencies after Democrats relented and lifted their blockade against legislation.
The explosion caused authorities to raise the alert level to four out of five, over fears a violent eruption is possible in just hours.
A senior police officer has accused internet firms of failing to respond to the growing online threat posed by paedophiles.