Tornadoes rip across Midwest, killing 10 and destroying homes

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Swarms of tornadoes killed at least 10 people across the Midwest, shut down the University of Kansas and caused so much damage in Springfield that the mayor compared it to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The violent weather started during the weekend with a line of storms that spawned tornadoes and downpours from the southern Plains to the Ohio Valley.

On Monday, a second line of storms raked the region, with rain, hail and fierce wind tearing up trees and homes from Kansas through Indiana. To the northwest, the vast weather system pulled cold air in Canada, generating blizzards that cut off power to thousands and shut down schools in South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Illinois' capital was hit hard twice in 24 hours, first by a tornado and then strong wind early Monday that blew debris through the city. Power lines were down across Springfield, trees uprooted and windows blown out.

"It's just amazing how devastating it is," Mayor Tim Davlin said Monday after daylight let him see the extent of damage. "It looks like the pictures we saw a couple months ago after Katrina."

Most major roads into the city were closed, and police searched damaged homes and businesses for people who could be trapped, said city spokesman Ernie Slottag. At least 24 people were treated for minor injuries.

Two hotels looked like they were stilbout 65,000 at the height of the storms, Thompson said.

Davlin said his brother's restaurant and bar in the nearby town of Jerome was heavily damaged.

"I had to call him and tell him that his roof was four buildings away," said the mayor, whose brother was out of town during the storm.

The vast weather system arose as moist air from the Gulf of Mexico collided with cold Canadian air, said Philip Schumacher of the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D. The system dumped 20 inches of snow in parts of western South Dakota and knocked out power and closed schools as it moved into Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"It is a sign that spring is coming," said Schumacher. "You start getting stronger low-pressure systems, and they're able to bring in stronger south winds, which tend to bring up more moisture."

Missouri authorities reported nine people killed, including four whose bodies were found in the rubble of homes near the town of Renick.

Another storm victim was found in Indiana, where several people had to be rescued from cars stalled in rapidly rising water. Flood warnings were posted Monday for large areas of southern and central Indiana.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)