DETROIT (AP) - Officials have confirmed two storm-related deaths in Michigan, raising to eight the toll from the heavy rain, powerful winds and tornadoes that formed across the region.
The Shiawassee County sheriff's department says 59-year-old Philip Daniel Smith of Perry in central Michigan was found dead and entangled in high-voltage power wires after going outside late Sunday to investigate a noise.
Also in central Michigan, Jackson County Sheriff Steven Rand says 21-year-old Ryan Allan Rickman of Leslie died when his vehicle was crushed by a fallen tree Sunday evening.
A band of storms moved across the Midwest on Sunday, unleashing powerful winds that flattened homes and left cars, trees and belongings strewn across neighborhoods. Officials say the storms also killed six people in Illinois.
Governor Pat Quinn declared seven counties state disaster areas on Monday, after severe storms spawned tornadoes and high winds across Illinois on Sunday.
Hundreds of homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed, leaving thousands without power. Numerous roads throughout the state have been closed by fallen trees and downed power lines. At least six people are reported dead and dozens more injured.
Governor Quinn will inspect damage on the ground in some of Illinois' hardest hit communities including Washington, Diamond, Gifford, Brookport and New Minden.
“Yesterday Illinois was hit extremely hard by deadly tornadoes that left many in a great deal of pain and loss,” Governor Quinn said.
“Although we are still receiving reports of massive damage to communities across our state, we want to make sure people are getting the assistance and resources they need as quickly as possible. As we pray for the families of those who have lost their lives and others who are injured, the state of Illinois will do everything necessary to help these communities recover."
The state disaster declaration makes available a wide variety of state resources that can help affected communities respond and recover from the storms.
The state has dispatched technical rescue teams to a number of locations to provide emergency generators, light towers and communications systems. More information about the state’s flood response and flood safety is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has taken a new, more left-leaning approach in his second term.
Nixon has long been a Democrat. But he could have passed himself off as a moderate Republican during his first four years as governor. He cut taxes, spending and thousands of government jobs. And Nixon shied far away from President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
Since he won re-election a year ago, however, Nixon has sought to expand Missouri's Medicaid eligibility under Obama's health care law. He vetoed a big income tax cut and numerous other bills passed by the Republican-led Legislature. And this past week, Nixon came out in support of gay marriage.
Some political scientists say Nixon appears to be re-positioning himself to appeal to national Democrats.
Storms that swept across the Midwest left at least six people dead and unleashed powerful winds that flattened neighborhoods, flipped over cars and uprooted trees.
The National Weather Service has confirmed preliminary EF-4 tornado damage about 50 miles east of St. Louis near New Minden, Illinois -- where two people were killed.
Washington, a town of 16,000 about 170 miles north of St. Louis, appeared to have the most severe damage. State Trooper Dustin Pierce says the tornado there cut a path about an eighth of a mile wide from one side of town to the other. Entire blocks of Washington were leveled. One person was killed. The National Guard has been called in to police the damaged neighborhoods.
Three others died in Massac County in far southern Illinois.
It wasn't tornadoes, but straight line winds that brought down trees and power lines on the Missouri side of the St. Louis metro area.
Two empty buildings reportedly toppled in the City of St. Louis.
In Wentzville, Heritage Primary Elementary school will open Monday, despite having parts of its roof blown off. The students will reportedly be moved to different classrooms.
The wind is being blamed for several interstate accidents, including one involving an overturned semi that closed the Poplar Street Bridge for several hours and an eight-car pile up along the I-70 depressed section downtown.
Crews are still working to clear downed trees, power lines and other debris from some St. Louis area roads. Drivers are urged to use caution this morning as traffic signals remain out at some intersections and some streets may still be littered with debris.
The power is still out for many in the St. Louis area as well. At the height of the storm, Ameren was reporting more than 50,000 metro-area customers were affected. Ameren opened an emergency operations center Sunday afternoon and crews have been working all day to restore power.
At 3:00 a.m, more than 6,700 Ameren Missouri customers and just over 2,500 metro-east customers were still in the dark.
HANNIBAL, Mo. (AP) — A northeast Missouri native's short film, a very personal account of childhood abuse, is drawing rave reviews.
Gretl Claggett now lives in New York but grew up in Hannibal, a Mississippi River town best known as the hometown of Mark Twain. The Hannibal Courier-Post reports that her film, "Happy Hour," was the winner for excellence in cinematography at the International Film Festival of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles last month.
The 14-minute film, narrated by actress Julianne Moore, is based on Claggett's poem about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child from a family friend.
Updated at 12:49 pm:
The Tornado Watch has been canceled for St. Louis city and areas West. The severe weather threat continues to move through Illinois.
Damage reports are widespread. Ranging from vehicles blown off the road on I-270 to large trees uprooted in St. Louis City.
At around 11:40 AM, a powerful storm blew through Kirkwood then traveled into St. Louis City. That storm had wind gusts estimated at 60 miles per hour.
A Tornado Watch has been issued for much of the listening area. The watch includes 13 counties in Missouri and 17 counties in Illinois. The complete text of the watch is below. A Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe storms that could produce tornadoes.
The entire metro area is under a wind advisory. Winds could gust as high as 45 miles an hour.
Thunderstorms are expected to develop in the St. Louis area around midday before heading into Illinois. The storms will also bring a cold front to St. Louis. Temperatures are in the 70's in the morning, but will fall into the 50's by the evening.
Full text of Tornado Watch
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS ISSUED TORNADO WATCH 561 IN EFFECT UNTIL 4 PM CST THIS AFTERNOON FOR THE FOLLOWING AREAS
IN ILLINOIS THIS WATCH INCLUDES 17 COUNTIES
IN SOUTH CENTRAL ILLINOIS
BOND IL CLINTON IL FAYETTE IL MARION IL MONTGOMERY IL WASHINGTON IL
IN SOUTHWEST ILLINOIS
CALHOUN IL GREENE IL JERSEY IL MACOUPIN IL MADISON IL MONROE IL RANDOLPH IL ST. CLAIR IL
IN WEST CENTRAL ILLINOIS
ADAMS IL BROWN IL PIKE IL
IN MISSOURI THIS WATCH INCLUDES 13 COUNTIES
IN CENTRAL MISSOURI
AUDRAIN MO CALLAWAY MO OSAGE MO
IN EAST CENTRAL MISSOURI
FRANKLIN MO GASCONADE MO JEFFERSON MO LINCOLN MO MONTGOMERY MO ST. CHARLES MO ST. LOUIS MO WARREN MO
IN NORTHEAST MISSOURI
PIKE MO RALLS MO
IN MISSOURI THIS WATCH INCLUDES 1 INDEPENDENT CITY
IN EAST CENTRAL MISSOURI
ST. LOUIS CITY MO
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF... BELLEVILLE... BOWLING GREEN... CHESTER... EDWARDSVILLE... LITCHFIELD... MEXICO... QUINCY... SALEM... ST CHARLES... ST LOUIS... UNION AND VANDALIA.
CHICAGO (AP) — A number of Midwestern states are awakening to the threat of a high risk of severe thunderstorms.
The National Weather Service says parts of Illinois, Indiana, southern Michigan and western Ohio are at the greatest risk of seeing tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds Sunday.
The agency says strong winds and atmospheric instability will sweep across the Central Plains during the day before pushing into the Mid-Atlantic states and northeast by evening.
It says the potential for strong and long-track tornadoes will center on the Ohio Valley and adjacent Midwestern states.
Many of the storms are expected to become supercells, with the potential to produce tornadoes, large hail and destructive winds.
The weather service says local and state authorities are monitoring the weather.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — No one knows how many atrocities Joseph Paul Franklin committed as he crossed the country more than three decades ago, fueled by hatred of blacks and Jews. Along the way he bombed a synagogue, robbed banks, shot and wounded a porn icon — and killed, by his own account, nearly two dozen people.
Even among the hard-core criminals on Missouri's death row, Franklin is perhaps the most notorious, killing and maiming victims while shooting from a vacant building, a grassy field and a highway overpass.
Franklin is scheduled to be put to death early Wednesday at a Missouri prison. His attorney says he is a paranoid schizophrenic who was abused as a child. She's asked federal and state courts and Gov. Jay Nixon to halt the execution. All have declined.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sen. Claire McCaskill says she'll introduce legislation requiring U.S. defense officials to address mismanagement in a military-led unit responsible for finding service members missing in action.
McCaskill's remarks come several months after an Associated Press story revealed an internal Pentagon report harshly critical of the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, which searches for missing soldiers' remains. The Pentagon report included accusations of misconduct among those responsible for overseas missions to investigate prospects for recovering remains.
McCaskill, a Democrat, said Friday at a news conference in Kansas City that she's preparing an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill. The amendment would give the Defense Department one year to submit a plan for reorganizing the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command and improving its accountability.
VERSAILLES, Mo. (AP) — One of three suspects in the February killings of a central Missouri couple has pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.
The Lake Sun Leader reports that 43-year-old Derrell Spellmeyer, of Eldon, also pleaded guilty Thursday to armed criminal action. Sentencing is scheduled Jan. 16 in Morgan County Circuit Court.
Spellmeyer was accused of shooting 53-year-old Carol Wilson and stabbing 66-year-old Freddie Wilson on Feb. 4 at their home in Versailles (vur-SAYLZ'). He was arrested by detectives responding to a call from Carol Wilson saying she had been shot.
Forty-five-year-old Garland Mitchell and 28-year-old Mandy Mitchell, both of Jefferson City, are awaiting trial on the same charges.
The Mitchells told investigators the three went to the home to obtain drugs, but that only Spellmeyer went inside.