Tornado watch expanded into 5 states, including southern Illinois

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A tornado watch on Saturday has been expanded to include five additional states in the central United States as a strong storm system moved from the Plains states and across the Mid-South.

The latest watch was in effect until 9 p.m. Saturday and adds northeastern Arkansas, southeastern Missouri, northwestern Mississippi, western Tennessee, western Kentucky and southern Illinois.

The previous watch remained in effect until 6 p.m. and already included most of most of the remainder of Arkansas in addition to northeastern Texas, southeastern Oklahoma and northeastern Louisiana.

The National Weather Service said the system was also capable of producing wind gusts of up to 75 mph (120 kilometers per hour) and hail up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter, or about the size of an egg. Heavy rain and flooding is also possible.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed an executive order earlier Saturday declaring a state of emergency ahead of the anticipated storms and flooding in parts of southern Missouri. The order activates the resources of the Missouri National Guard and ensures state resources are available in the event of weather damage.

A levee breach along the Kankakee River in northwestern Indiana had local officials urging about 30 homeowners to evacuate.

Keener Township Volunteer Fire Chief Randy Woods said the breach was relatively minor when it was discovered about 3 p.m. Friday near Demotte, about 50 miles southeast of Chicago. Local residents tried to sandbag the breach “to get it under control, but it just got bigger and bigger,” he said. Local firefighters were called to help them, but eventually everyone had to pull out for their own safety.

No injuries were reported.

The weather service said record flooding was occurring along the Kankakee following several days of heavy rains and snowmelt that sent streams out of their banks from the Ohio River to Michigan and Wisconsin.

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