SHUQUALAK, Miss —
Across the Mississippi River in Alton, Ill., Dave Grounds was watching TV when he heard the rain suddenly intensify, followed by winds that he said had "incredible resonance."
"That's when the house started shaking violently, like it was grabbed by both sides," said Grounds, a judge for Madison County's juvenile court. "I thought it was an earthquake, and that's when things started collapsing."
Two large trees — one oak and the other ash, each a century old — toppled onto one end of his house of 43 years, caving in his bedroom and crushing two of his vehicles.
"Electricity lines came down and started sparking like it was the Fourth of July, and the whole house filled with smoke," said Grounds, 64.
At least eight homes were damaged in the St. Louis neighborhood known as the Hill, famous for its Italian heritage and restaurants. Mobile homes were blown over in parts of Franklin and Washington counties, not far from St. Louis.
Fuchs said the storm, which affected numerous states, was the result of a clash of warm and cold air — typical for spring.
On Thursday, the system moved through the Southeast, with high winds knocking over trees and power lines in rural west Alabama and eastern Mississippi. About 50 school systems in central and north Alabama sent students home early, and a few government offices and businesses also closed early.
In Shuqualak, Kathy Coleman, 57, said she was outside her home signing for a delivery of her dialysis medication when the deliveryman hustled her back in to the house. Coleman said she, the deliveryman and her housekeeper huddled in the bathroom as the storm hit.
"All I could hear was trees breaking and falling and glass. He started praying and I started praying. Thank God he was here," she said.