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SEVERE WEATHER
Associated PressLivy Simpson Sunday salvages items from the formerly two-story house of her sister in Walter Hill, Tenn. The house was turned into a pile of rubble after an early morning storm destroyed several homes in the community.

Rescue and cleanup crews picked through wreckage in several states on Sunday after another batch of storms roared through the middle of the country, doing heavy damage in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Winds up to 150 mph tore into homes in central Kentucky, causing more than a dozen injuries. Rescue divers searched through debris Sunday for a missing woman whose mobile home was tossed into a river as a tornado cut a seven-mile swath in Mercer County.

"It disintegrated, and pieces of it were blown into the Salt River," Steve Oglesby, area manager with the state Division of Emergency Management, said of the mobile home.

The storms stem from a volatile weather system that "has been hung up over the area the past two or three days," said Chris Geelhart, a National Weather Service spokesman. The worst of the storms appeared to have moved out of the region Sunday morning.

More than 300 tornadoes have been reported across the Midwest since the start of May, and at least 45 people have died in the storms. The toll includes an Oklahoma man who died Sunday, becoming the first victim of twisters that swept through central Oklahoma on Thursday and Friday. About 145 injuries were reported in those tornadoes.

Meteorologists say it was the most active week of tornadoes on record, easily eclipsing the most recent comparable rash, in 1999.

In Missouri, a fraternity house at Culver-Stockton College and dozens of buildings in the surrounding town of Canton were hit when a tornado swept through Saturday evening.

The steel dome of the college's administrative building lay crumpled on a lawn Sunday, and the gymnasium, which had held about 1,000 people for graduation hours before the storm hit, was in ruins. Parts of a nearby mobile home park in the town of 2,500 were unrecognizable, but authorities reported no life-threatening injuries.

"All the furniture, the fridge. I haven't even found the bed yet. The sink is way over there. It's gone. It's all gone," said James Rockhold, 37, who had taken his family to a safer building after hearing about the storm.

Tornadoes were reported in 10 counties across the central part of Illinois, officials said.

A twister that tore through South Pekin, Ill., 10 miles south of Peoria, damaged more than 150 homes, said Scott Gauvin, a spokesman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. More than 30 injures were reported.

At least 25 homes in Lima, Ill., a rural community about 20 miles north of Quincy, were damaged when one tornado touched down.

Gauvin said. The post office and a church in the community of 120 people were destroyed, and the top of the water tower was gone.

"It looks like a bomb had gone off," said Lima resident Mark Kroner.

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Several funnel clouds were also spotted in Sangamon County, where the Illinois capital is located, and some flooding was reported, said Bill Russell of the county's emergency services agency.

Storms and powerful wind were also reported in Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan.

In Tennessee, three tornadoes struck the middle part of the state, leveling homes and toppling trees and power lines.

Heavy damage also was reported in the western part of the state, but National Weather Service officials were still trying to determine whether the damage was caused by tornadoes.

At least four people were taken to hospitals, but none of the injuries was life threatening, said Kurt Pickering, a spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. About 400 homes and another 100 churches and businesses were damaged, he said.

"We've got a big old mess," said Maureen Culberson, a dispatcher with the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency. "And after having a week ago gone through the same thing … it is unbelievable."

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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