One dead as tornadoes sweep through northern Illinois
Illustration of a tornado causing destruction [Shutterstock]

A dangerous storm system rolled through the Midwest on Thursday evening, killing at least one person and leveling houses and businesses northwest of Chicago, local officials said.

One person was killed and at least seven people were injured in the tiny town of Fairdale, Illinois, located some 75 miles (120 km) from Chicago, according to local media, citing emergency officials.

Les Bellah, village president of nearby Kirkland, said that there was "extensive damage" to Fairdale, which has about 300 people. "I sent all our equipment there to help - backhoes, generators," said Bellah.

Damage was also reported in and around Rochelle, Illinois, about 81 miles (130 km) west of Chicago, according to Rochelle Councilman Bill Hayes. The Red Cross opened a shelter in the town of about 10,000 people, and more than a dozen state agencies were providing help, according to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

"There's some houses that have been completely destroyed," Hayes said. He saw a tornado touch down while he was driving and raced off to warn people in its path.

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle told reporters on Thursday night that his house, and the home of relatives living nearby, were among the roughly 20 in Rochelle that were destroyed or significantly damaged. He said no one was taken to the hospital or reported missing.

Roads were closed all around the area due to downed power lines, said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police Officer Phillip Wire, who was directing traffic near Rochelle.

Hayes said the popular Grubsteakers Restaurant in Rochelle was hit by the storm. People were rescued from the basement.

Fred McBride of Rochelle said he was working about half a mile from his house when the storm hit. He texted his family to "hit the basement." Everyone in his home was safe, but windows were broken and a dozen downed trees littered his yard.

Nearly 900 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport because of the weather, the airport said.

Storm spotters reported two tornadoes each in Peoria and Lee, Illinois, along with twisters in Clinton and Scott, Iowa, according to the weather service.

The storm brought with it strong winds as well as golf ball- and baseball-sized hail in the Midwest and Northeast, the weather service said.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center is forecasting a risk of severe thunderstorms Friday afternoon and evening from southern Texas east along the Gulf Coast and northeast to the Mid-Atlantic states. Damaging winds and large hail are the main threats.

(Reporting by Bob Chiarito in Rochelle, Ill., Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Sandra Maler, Eric Walsh, Ken Wills and Michael Perry)