CHICAGO Thunderstorms and heavy winds pounded the upper Midwest Tuesday night, leaving thousands stranded at Chicago's two major airports after their flights were canceled and temporarily delaying the departure of Vice President Joe Biden, who was in town for a fundraiser.
The Chicago Aviation Department reported more than 300 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport, with incoming and outgoing flights delayed by at least two hours. More than 30 flights were canceled at Midway International Airport.
Ashley Luthern of Youngstown, Ohio, who was trying to make a connection to Pittsburgh after a flight from Istanbul, was among the hundreds of passengers at O'Hare who were herded into lower-level baggage claim area the American Airlines terminal when the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch.
"At first they said get away from the windows, which is very hard to do in an airport," she said. "They then became forceful in telling us to go down to the baggage claim area."
Karen Ramsey of Williamsburg, Iowa, was trapped at O'Hare after flying in from Cancun, Mexico on United Airlines when her connection to Moline was canceled.
"It was beautiful down there. Come home to this," Ramsey said.
Biden was in Chicago attending a Democratic fundraiser and raising money for an epilepsy foundation. After a delay, he arrived at O'Hare and was preparing to return to Washington.
Michael Gillis, spokesman for the commuter rail Metra, said more than 10 trains were delayed or stopped, mostly because of high winds. An inbound train from Elgin to Chicago was stopped because of a tree that fell onto the tracks, Gillis said.
Commonwealth Edison was reporting power outages to more than 270,000 of the utility's customers at the peak of the storm. Spokesman Bennie Currie said most of the outages were in Chicago's northern suburbs, where downed power lines had cut electricity to 151,000 customers.
Storms also damaged two hangars at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich. WZZM-TV reported the airport hangars were pulled off their foundations by the winds Tuesday night, exposing the aircrafts inside. Three people inside were hurt, and one was taken to a hospital for a head cut, the station reported.
No tornadoes were immediately reported, but the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings until 10:30 p.m. for parts of Genesee and Saginaw Counties, saying conditions were favorable for funnel cloud formation.
The Midwest storms came one day after the evacuation of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Sirens blared and fans were ushered to an underground shelter as heavy rain pelted the city.
The game between Florida and Vanderbilt was suspended until Tuesday, with the Gators winning 3-1.