(CNN) -- A tornado pummeled Pensacola, Florida, Thursday, severely damaging a church with an attached day care center, destroying homes and leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power, the mayor said.
Christy Fayard took this photo of an overturned car in the parking lot of a store Thursday in Pensacola, Florida.
"We had about 15 or 20 minutes notice from the weather service that Doppler radar indicated that there was, in fact, a rotation in this one severe thunderstorm," Mayor John Fogg said.
"We aren't used to tornadoes in this area."
The day care center next to the Greater Little Rock Baptist Church "took a direct hit," but the children already had been moved to a safer location, said Glenn Austin, spokesman for the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.
Video showed frantic, tearful parents rushing into the building to get their children.
Christie Fayard said she and her co-workers saw the tornado from their building about two miles away.
"We took cover. We just went to a break room and let it pass," said Fayard, who is the sister of CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera.
After the storm passed, Fayard left work and saw a vehicle overturned in a Target store parking lot.
"We had ample warning," Fayard said. "I think the local media did a great job [warning people]."
Another Pensacola resident who saw the twister pass said it made a frightening noise.
"It sounded creepy, like a bunch of cars were driving over my house," Leeann Franzonne told The Associated Press.
The tornado was spotted about 9 a.m. and dissipated about 40 minutes later, Austin said. It moved roughly from southwest to northeast, with the biggest apparent damage in the southwest, where older suburbs are located.
The twister followed a skipping pattern, sporadically receding into the clouds and then touching down again. Watch where the storm ripped through Pensacola »
It battered many buildings downtown, blew the roofs off sections of Cordova Mall northeast of downtown, and damaged Pensacola Junior College, where classes were canceled for the rest of the day. See more photos of the violent storm »
Four houses were destroyed and more than 80 were damaged, according to Escambia County officials.
Several people were taken to hospitals in the Pensacola area, with what seemed to be minor injuries, Austin said.
Four people were treated for minor injuries at Baptist Hospital, and released, said spokeswoman Candy McGuyre.
"Here at the sheriff's office, we were evacuated down to the basement at one point," Austin said.
Officials have a system in place to deal with hurricanes, but not tornadoes, Fogg said. Still, shelters were quickly set up Thursday for the homeless, he said.
At least 6,800 homes and businesses were without power, according to Gulf Power spokesman John Hutchinson, who advised that it may take some time to restore electricity because of the continuing storms.
More stormy weather may be on its way.
Florida's emergency management officials issued a statement warning residents and visitors in north Florida that storms and isolated tornadoes were expected during the evening and overnight through Friday.
Earlier Thursday, two people died in their mobile home when high winds from a possible tornado hit northeastern Missouri, CNN affiliate KMBC reported.
Other tornadoes struck the southwestern part of the state but did not cause much damage, KMBC added.
Wednesday night, two tents were blown down at Tulsa, Oklahoma's, Oktoberfest, sending 21 people to hospitals, Tina Wells, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Emergency Medical Services Authority, told The Associated Press.
Oktoberfest organizer Michael Sanders said he and about 2,000 other people went into a beer garden tent as a light rain started to fall on the festival.
"Soon as I got in there, within seconds, without warning, there was this huge gust of wind ... and the tent started collapsing," Sanders said.
The thunderstorms damaged about 25 mobile homes and travel trailers in a mobile home park near Oologah, northeast of Tulsa, the Oologah-Talala Emergency Medical Services District said.
None of the five injuries reported was believed to be life threatening, officials said. Trees and power lines were down throughout the area.
Four victims had been in one mobile home that was destroyed, AP reported.
Wind gusts in Kingfisher County reached 86 mph, Emergency Management Director Steve Loftis told the AP.
A tornado damaged six homes in a rural area near Mount Vernon, Missouri, Lawrence County Sheriff's Lt. Brad Delay said. Delay said he followed the tornado in his patrol car.
About 4 inches of rain brought flash flooding and high stream levels in Kansas City, Missouri, CNN affiliate KMBC reported.
A teenage boy was swept away by water rushing through a culvert, but he managed to pull himself to safety before rescuers arrived, KMBC reported.
Flooding from the same storm system is threatening the autumn harvest in Iowa, where high water also ruined farmers' first plantings in the spring, CNN affiliate KETV in Omaha, Nebraska, reported. E-mail to a friend
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