- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Survivors tell their stories: ‘We are safe here’

A powerful storm system was menacing a large swath of the South early Tuesday, killing more than two dozen people from Arkansas to Alabama over more than two days of destruction. Here are the some stories from people in Mississippi and Alabama that made it through the frightening chaos.

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After the tornado pounced on Tupelo, Miss., one gas station looked as if it had been stepped on by a giant. Francis Gonzalez owns a convenience store and Mexican restaurant attached to that station. Gonzalez, her three children and two employees ducked for cover in the store’s cooler shortly after a cellphone blared a tornado warning.

In the nick of time. Within seconds, the wind picked up and glass shattered. The roof over the gas pumps was reduced to aluminum shards. A nearby SUV had its windows blown out. The storefront window had a large hole in it. Debris lay everywhere.

“It took us by surprise,” Gonzalez said in Spanish. Stunned by the destruction all around, she added: “My Lord, how can all this happen in just one second?”

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Toyota moving US base from California to Texas

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) - Toyota is moving its U.S. headquarters from California to Texas to get closer to its Midwest assembly plants and improve communication between units now spread over several states.

Toyota will break ground this year on a new environmentally friendly headquarters in Plano, Texas, about 25 miles north of Dallas. Small groups of employees will start moving to temporary office space there this year, but most will not move until late 2016 or early 2017 when a new headquarters is completed.

The new campus will bring together approximately 4,000 employees from sales, marketing, engineering, manufacturing and finance. That includes 2,000 employees at the current headquarters in Torrance, Calif.; 1,000 employees at Toyota Financial Services, which is also in California; and 1,000 employees from Toyota’s engineering and manufacturing center in Erlanger, Ky.

Toyota also plans to expand its technical center near Ann Arbor, Mich., and move approximately 250 parts procurement positions there from Georgetown, Ky., where the Camry and Avalon sedans are made. That will free up space for approximately 300 production engineers to move from Erlanger to Georgetown.

Jim Lentz, Toyota’s CEO for North America, said the new headquarters will enable faster decision making. It’s one of the most significant changes in Toyota’s 57-year history in the U.S., Lentz told The Associated Press.

“We needed to be much more collaborative,” Lentz said.

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