LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Powerful thunderstorms that moved through the Plains and Southeast have killed five people — three of them in Michigan overnight and two earlier in Missouri, while causing damage across the regions.
A line of storms ripped through Michigan overnight, destroying several homes and overturning vehicles, including a semi-trailer. A 29-year-old man was killed when strong wind collapsed his home around him, and a man and woman were found dead after their home was knocked off its foundation into a pond, officials said.
In Millington Township, a year-old baby in a crib escaped injury after apparently being tossed about 40 feet by a tornado that destroyed a home early Friday, fire officials said.
A neighbor found the baby in the crib under a pile of debris.
"Sometimes miracles happen," said firefighter Dan Detgen.
In Indiana, authorities declared a state of emergency after a tornado hit Nappanee, about 20 miles southeast of South Bend. Police said five people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries and 200 to 250 buildings were damaged, half of them severely. Among the businesses damaged there were three recreation vehicle plants that are among the city’s largest employers.
The storms, unusually strong for October, left downed trees, power outages and debris in their paths as they struck Thursday and early Friday. Downtown Chicago was pelted with hail during rush hour and tornadoes touched down in Kentucky and Michigan, officials said.
But conditions were expected to transition into cooler temperatures and clear skies on Friday.
Daycare, church destroyed
The storms spawned a tornado in Pensacola, Fla., that sent mall shoppers and children at a day care center running for cover.
Video: Tornado terror 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.
Bodies found 400 feet from home
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 early Thursday. 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 Oklahoma, some 35 people were hurt late Wednesday by severe winds that damaged mobile homes and toppled tents at an Oktoberfest party.
Death in Washington state
In western Washington, where wind gusts reached 66 mph on Thursday, a woman was injured when the top of a tree hit her in the head in Kent, fire officials said. A Seattle police patrol boat, responding to an emergency call of a kite boarder being dragged north on Lake Washington, found a 44-year-old man floating face down off Kirkland on the east side of the lake, police said.
The wind resulted in a three-hour precautionary closure of State Route 104 across Hood Canal, which separates the Kitsap and Olympia peninsulas. High wind can cause the concrete pontoons to move and high waves splash passing cars. The current floating bridge is a replacement for one that sank during a storm in 1979.
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