Several tornadoes sweep across region

? Several tornadoes dropped from a line of strong storms that moved across Kansas into Missouri on Thursday, destroying at least one home and spooking a pair of circus elephants that escaped their enclosure.

The elephants, part of a traveling circus in WaKeeney, were apparently frightened by the storm and wandered through the town after breaking loose, said Trego County Sheriff Richard Schneider.

One elephant wandered into a resident’s backyard less than a mile from the Trego County Fairgrounds and was blocked off by fire trucks until its trainers could coax it onto a truck, Schneider said.

“I guess it got tired of walking around,” he said.

The second elephant was tranquilized in another resident’s backyard, coaxed into a truck and taken back to the circus, which was already packing up to head to the next town, Schneider said.

There were no reports of damage from the elephants, but winds and hail caused extensive roof damage in nearby Collyer, he said.

The National Weather Service in Kansas City, Mo., said there were 30 reports of tornadoes across the Midwest, with 14 of those coming after 5 p.m. Winds of up to 80 mph and large hail battered parts of Kansas, with Pawnee County reporting hail stones up to 3 inches in diameter.

A tornado briefly touched down near St. Joseph, Mo., and widespread flooding was reported in the northwest part of the state; State Highway 59 closed because of high water and officials were about to close Highway 136, according to Dan Bloom, quality assurance meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Kansas City.

Bloom said there were no reports of injuries as of 11:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service had predicted a potentially historic day of twisters and the storms were still churning late Thursday.

One NWS forecaster said there still was potential for severe weather and eastern parts of Missouri could be hit hard on Friday.

A large tornado in Atchison County destroyed a grain bin and farm buildings before crossing the Missouri River, where it overturned tractor trailers on Interstate 29 in northwest Missouri, the weather service reported.

One of two tornadoes in Clay County destroyed one home, knocked down power lines and trees, and damaged several buildings, according to a county dispatcher.