CHICAGO — After a brief respite of sunshine, winter returned to much of the nation's midsection on Thursday, bringing a chilly mix of rain, sleet and snow, and at least one tornado.
The weather accelerated long-awaited melting and added to considerable runoff, raising concerns about flooding. Strong winds in central Illinois produced at least one tornado and 60 mph wind gusts that destroyed several farm buildings and knocked out power to thousands of people, according to the National Weather Service and local officials. There were no reports of injuries.
To the north, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, forecasters predicted as much as 13 inches of fresh snow could fall through Friday. Minnesota expected to get 8 to 10 inches.
The governor of Wisconsin declared a state of emergency ahead of a storm expected to dump more than a foot of snow in places, and some schools closed early.
On the East Coast, Vermont officials expressed the same worry that Michigan authorities voiced the day before: that wet, heavy snow could cause dangerous roof collapses.
The snow that piled up in Illinois during weeks of subzero temperatures started to melt in earnest as temperatures rose above freezing on Wednesday and Thursday. As work crews scrambled to clear catch basins of water to prevent flooding, some people took steps to make sure protect their belongings from any floodwaters. Emergency workers evacuated dozens of residents from a nursing home in Illinois' Kankakee County as a precaution.
"It flooded in front of my house up to my boot," said Lisa Robertson, a 50-year-old computer operator, after she got off a train in Chicago from her home in the south suburbs. "Last night, we made sure nothing was on the floor of the basement, (but) I'm worried about flooding when I get home."