Earlier, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications had issued a warning to fans, urging them "to take extra precautions and ... appropriate measures to ensure their personal safety."
Just how many tornadoes hit was unclear. According to the National Weather Services' website, a total of 65 tornadoes had struck, the bulk of them in Illinois. But meteorologist Matt Friedlein said the total might fall because emergency workers, tornado spotters and others often report the same tornado.
Still, when the weather service was issuing its warning that severe weather was bearing down on the Midwest, officials said the last such warning issued so late in the season in November came in 2005, and the result was an outbreak of 49 tornadoes.
The storm followed warnings by the weather service that the storm was simply moving too fast for people to wait until they saw it to get ready.
"This is a very dangerous situation," said Russell Schneider, director of the weather service's Storm Prediction Center. Some 53 million people in 10 states were "at significant risk for thunderstorms and tornadoes," he said.
The White House issued a statement saying President Barack Obama had been briefed about the damage and was in touch with federal, state and local officials.
Such severe weather this late in the season also carries the risk of surprise.
"People can fall into complacency because they don't see severe weather and tornadoes, but we do stress that they should keep a vigilant eye on the weather and have a means to hear a tornado warning because things can change very quickly," said Matt Friedlein, a weather service meteorologist.
The storm also slammed through parts of Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky as it made its way east into the mid-Atlantic states on Sunday night. Tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds tore through several communities, leaving thousands without power as emergency crews tried to clear roads.