High winds from a possible tornado struck rural northeastern Missouri early Thursday, killing a couple in a mobile home, authorities said. Several twisters hit in the southwest part of the state without causing major damage.

A tornado also touched down in the Florida Panhandle on Thursday, damaging the city's major shopping mall as a line of violent thunderstorms made their way across the state's western Panhandle. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Eddie English Jr., a department store clerk, said he heard the wind outside the store suddenly speed up and get louder. Then mall security guards entered the store and ordered about 200 to 300 employees and shoppers to evacuate to the basement.

Lindsey Lassiter, manager of the mall's Express for Men store, said the ceiling in her store was damaged and that water was pouring in.

Jack Cullen, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service in Mobile, Ala., confirmed that a tornado touched down shortly before noon.

In Missouri, the storm hit Monroe County, 90 kilometres north of Columbia. National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett said there were reports of a possible tornado, but they had not been confirmed.

The two people killed were inside a trailer when it was pummelled by high winds shortly after midnight. Their bodies were discovered about 120 metres from where the mobile home was found, state troopers said.

Killed were Kent Ensor, 44, and Kristy Secrease, 25. Secrease managed a hog farm owned by Ensor; the couple had been dating for about a year, friends said. "They were good people," said neighbour Joey Crigler, whose home was spared from damage.

High winds in the area also downed trees, power lines and utility poles. Authorities say some of the falling trees left minor damage to homes in several counties. "We had damage scattered around central and eastern Missouri and into southwestern Illinois," Truett said.

Authorities said two tornadoes touched down Wednesday in southwest Missouri. No injuries were reported, but a home near Chesapeake was reportedly destroyed, and a barn was badly damaged.

In the St. Louis area, nearly 10,000 customers of AmerenUE were without power Thursday morning from wind, lightning strikes and downed trees. The southern Illinois town Murphysboro had to close schools because classrooms lacked power.

On Wednesday night, a powerful storm brought heavy rain, high winds, hail and a possible tornado to Oklahoma. The system injured more than 30 people and damaged about 25 mobile homes and travel trailers.

Five people remained hospitalized Thursday, three in serious condition, said Tina Wells, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority.

The storm moved through the Tulsa area just before 7:30 p.m. and caused two tents to collapse at an Oktoberfest gathering.

"There was some sort of tornado or microburst that picked up at least one of the tents and it collapsed on a large group of people," said Tulsa police Sgt. Michael Brown.

North of Tulsa, five people were injured and 25 mobile homes and travel trailers were damaged when the storm hit a mobile home park between Oologah and the Washington County line, the Oologah-Talala Emergency Medical Services District reported.