Severe Weather Slams Southeast, Plains

(AP) Powerful thunderstorms that moved through the Plains and Southeast sent a mobile home in Missouri flying, destroyed homes in Michigan and collapsed a trailer in Kentucky. Three people were killed.

The storms, unusually strong for October, left downed trees, power outages and debris in their paths as they struck Thursday and early Friday. But conditions were expected to transition into cooler temperatures and clear skies on Friday.

The storms spawned a tornado in Pensacola, Fla., that sent mall shoppers and children at a day care center running for cover. Downtown Chicago was pelted with hail during rush hour and tornadoes touched down in Kentucky and Michigan, officials said.

Children at the Greater Little Rock Baptist Church's daycare center were moved to safety just before the twister hit Thursday morning, said Escambia County sheriff's spokesman Glenn Austin. The pastor and an employee at the center said they had little time to react.

"The phone call I received simply said, 'Pastor, it looks like the roof of the church is in the parking lot,'" Pastor Lonnie D. Wesley III told NBC's "Today" on Friday. "As soon as I made it to the church, the first words out of my mouth were, 'My Lord.'"

Eddie English Jr., a department store stock manager, said he heard the wind outside the store suddenly speed up and get louder. Then mall security guards entered the store and ordered 200 to 300 employees and shoppers into the basement.

In rural northeastern Missouri, the state Highway Patrol said Kent Ensor, 44, and Kristy Secrease, 25, had sought refuge in Secrease's mobile home in Monroe County as a tornado approached. Their bodies were found about 400 feet from where the home had been.

The mobile home's frame was found three-quarters of a mile away, with debris as far as two miles away. The National Weather Service said the storm traveled a mile and had winds as high as 135 mph.

Ensor and Secrease had been dating for about a year, friends and family said.

"Everybody knows everybody here," said Jim Lovelady, who moved to the Paris area in 1994. "This hurts."

Four people were hurt when a mobile home in Sebree, Ky., collapsed because of strong winds, but their injuries appeared to be minor, Webster County Sheriff Frankie Springfield told The Gleaner of Henderson.

"The mobile home was all in pieces," Springfield told the newspaper. Thunderstorms injured four others in a mobile home west of Louisville, Ky., said Capt. Jeff Jones of the Daviess County Sheriff's Office. The nature of their injuries was not immediately available.

In Indiana, authorities declared a state of emergency after an apparent tornado hit Nappanee, about 20 miles southeast of South Bend. Police said several people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries as a strong line of thunderstorms moved through the state.

A line of storms ripped through northern Michigan, destroying several homes and overturning vehicles, including a semi-trailer. A 29-year-old man was killed when strong winds collapsed his home around him, officials said.

A sudden downpour belted downtown Chicago just as people left work, sending commuters scurrying into buildings to avoid strong winds, hail and horizontal rain. The city's two major airports reported delays of two hours.

An 11-year-old boy was in stable condition after being struck by lightning, said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.


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