At least seven people were killed, dozens of others injured and hundreds of people have been left without homes after a rare autumn system of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms quickly tore through parts of the Midwest on Sunday.
The biggest damage was found in parts of northern and central Illinois, though severe storms also impacted people in 11 other states including Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in a Monday press conference said between 20-30 tornadoes touched down in the state. He called the storms the most severe November system in the state's history. (Watch the governor speak on the storm below.)
The town of Washington, Ill., about 140 miles southwest of Chicago was particularly hard-hit as an EF-4 tornado touched down there. According to the Associated Press, Washington Mayor Gary Manier estimated that between 250 and 500 homes in the town of 16,000 residents were destroyed or seriously damaged Sunday.
Officials on Monday urged those wishing to help victims of the storms to avoid going to the affected areas themselves and instead to support the organizations that have mobilized on the ground to help those in need.
"The best way to help is from this point is to make a financial contribution," said Martha Carlos, chief communications officer for the Chicago chapter of the American Red Cross, told HuffPost on Monday. "People can donate by going online or calling 1-800-RED CROSS."
Carlos said there have been no requests for blood donations in central Illinois at this point. As for donated items like food and clothing, Carlos suggests organizations like the Salvation Army and Goodwill.
"As for the collection of stuff, the role of the Red Cross is to provide immediate assistance. So feeding and sheltering -- those things start immediately, sometimes at 3 a.m. At the Red Cross, we don't really have the intake for drop-off items. That part comes later since we have very efficient means of getting food and shelter right to the site of the disaster instead of handling shipping."
Carlos added that for people with loved ones in the hard-hit areas like a Washington, Peoria and Minonk, a simple phone call can also be a powerful way to show support.
"Whether or not you've lost life or possessions -- or maybe you didn't lose anything -- [a tornado] is a very emotional thing to go through. That call from friends and family who can listen now -- and in the future -- is really important. That's something really helpful you can do and it's doesn't cost a thing."
Kim Bellware contributed to this report.