- 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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Pipeline builders halting Kentucky project

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Developers are halting a three-state underground pipeline project that drew intense opposition in Kentucky from residents, activists and even a group of nuns.

Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners said in a web posting Monday that they were not able to assemble a large enough customer base for the natural gas liquids that would be delivered by the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline. They suggested, however, that the project could be resurrected at a later date.

“We continue to pursue support for the project, but we are exercising capital discipline and not investing additional capital at this time. In short, Bluegrass Pipeline appears to be a project that’s ahead of its time,” the web posting said.

The companies said they are no longer seeking to acquire land for the project and offices that housed land acquisition teams have been closed.

Planners intended to install 500 miles of new pipeline through West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Kentucky’s portion would have traveled about 180 miles through more than a dozen counties to connect with an existing line in Breckinridge County.

But opposition to the proposal was swift and widespread in Kentucky, coming from activists, residents near the planned route and even the Sisters of Loretto, a group of Catholic nuns in Marion County. Residents were upset over the pipeline backers’ insistence that they would be able to use eminent domain laws to seize private land for the project.

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Storm barrels through southeastern Kentucky

HARLAN, Ky. (AP) - A strong storm barreling through southeastern Kentucky has damaged homes and businesses and left power customers in the dark, but no injuries have been reported.

Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill said an estimated 6,700 Kentucky Utilities customers were without power after the storm Monday afternoon.

He said strong winds damaged three businesses and numerous homes in the Evarts community of Harlan County and destroyed one home in the Harlan area.

McGill said Monday night that numerous trees and power lines were down in the county.

Dozens of tornado, flood and thunderstorm warnings and watches were issued Monday around the state. The National Weather Service said rain and thunderstorms, some with damaging winds, were expected to continue statewide into Tuesday.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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