CLARKS MILLS, Wis. – Thousands of homes and businesses had no electricity Wednesday in the path of a long line of thunderstorms that stretched from Tennessee to the Great Lakes.
Wind gusted to 80 mph in Kentucky and Tennessee on Tuesday, and hail stones as big as softballs were reported in parts of Illinois, the National Weather Service (search) said.
As the storms passed through central Illinois, a tornado leveled a manufacturing plant Tuesday at Roanoke and roofs were blown off several houses, officials said.
Workers at Parsons Manufacturing plant in Roanoke, about 20 miles east of Peoria, went to storm shelters before the twister struck.
"The sound was so intense you had to hold your ears shut," office worker Dave McClallen said.
Utilities around Kentucky reported about 254,000 homes and businesses lost power during the storms, including 115,000 in the Louisville metropolitan area, the most there since a 1974 tornado.
Traffic lights remained out Wednesday in much of Louisville. Chip Keeling, a spokesman for Louisville Gas & Electric, said power had been restored to about 40,000 customers by Wednesday morning but some might remain in the dark for an extended period.
About 60,000 customers were blacked out in central Tennessee, but service had been restored to about half of them by dawn Wednesday, Nashville Electric Service (search) reported.
Some 51,000 customers were still without power Wednesday morning in Indiana, down from a high of up to 136,000 during the storms, said Cinergy-PSI spokeswoman Angeline Protogere. Some might have to wait until Thursday for the lights to go on again, she said.
One man was killed in Indiana when a tractor tipped over on him while he cleaned up storm debris, officials said.
Utilities said at least 10,000 customers lost power in Michigan.
Funnel clouds were spotted in Wisconsin near Manitowoc and Clarks Mills. One touched down near Clarks Mills, damaging farm homes and other rural buildings, said Manitowoc County Sheriff's Sgt. Andrew Colborn.