PARIS, Mo. — Storms that raked the Plains and Southeast on Thursday tossed a mobile home in Missouri, killing both people inside, and spawned a tornado in Florida that sent mall shoppers and children at a day-care center running for cover.
The storms continued throughout the day, pelting downtown Chicago with hail during the evening rush hour and spawning a damaging tornado in Kentucky as they swept eastward, officials said.
In rural northeastern Missouri, the state Highway Patrol said Kent Ensor and Kristy Secrease 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, 44, and Secrease, 25, had been dating for about a year, friends and family members said.
“Everybody knows everybody here,” said Jim Lovelady, who moved to the Paris area in 1994. “This hurts.”
A tornado late Thursday morning in Pensacola, Fla., damaged the city’s major shopping mall.
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.
Lindsey Lassiter, manager of the mall’s Express for Men store, said water poured in from her shop’s damaged ceiling. In downtown Pensacola, electricity was out and streets filled up with several inches of water from rain that began around dawn.
Greater Little Rock Baptist Church’s roof was damaged, as was its day-care center, said Escambia County sheriff’s spokesman Glenn Austin. But the children there had been moved to safety before the tornado struck, he said.
“They heard the warnings, grabbed the kids and followed the drill,” he said.
Jack Cullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, confirmed that a tornado touched down shortly before noon.
High winds injured three people in Arkansas on Wednesday, the state Department of Emergency Management said. A tornado also destroyed five mobile homes and damaged four houses, state and weather officials said.
The severe weather continued into the night. Thunderstorms injured four people in a trailer west of Louisville, Ky., said Capt. Jeff Jones of the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office. The nature of their injuries was not immediately available.
Possible tornadoes were also reported Thursday night in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Winds reached 80 mph in New Amsterdam, Ind., said Larry Dattilo of the National Weather Service.
A sudden downpour belted downtown Chicago just as people left work, sending commuters scurrying into buildings to avoid strong winds, hail and horizontal rain. Chicago’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.
To the West, a separate system brought the season’s first big storm to coastal Washington, where a falling tree injured a woman and more than 50,000 customers lost power. A gust of 62 mph was reported in Spanaway, said Weather Service meteorologist Carl Cerniglia.
The night before in Tulsa, Okla., more than 7,000 people were at the Oktoberfest festival when the tents collapsed. Five of those hurt remained hospitalized Thursday, and three were in serious condition with head injuries, concussions and lacerations, said Tina Wells, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority.
North of Tulsa, five people were injured and 25 mobile homes and travel trailers were damaged when the storm hit a mobile home park between Oologah and the Washington County line, the Oologah-Talala Emergency Medical Services District reported. None of the injuries was believed to be life-threatening, officials said.
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