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Tornadoes pepper parts of Midwest as storm system heads east

By
Clyde Hughes and Nicholas Sakelaris

March 15 (UPI) -- Severe weather that produced a "bomb cyclone" in the Rockies this week headed east Friday after creating multiple tornadoes across several states, forecasters said.

Meteorologists said tornadoes touched down Thursday in Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan.

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The twisters caused heavy damage in Lovelaceville, Ky., and a person was injured when a tree crashed into a home. One tornado nearly hit the National Weather Service forecast office in West Paducah, officials said.

"An unusually warm air mass ahead of a strong cold front helped lead to widespread severe thunderstorms, reaching as far north as Michigan," AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rathbun said. "There was enough rotation in the atmosphere for several thunderstorms to either be tornado warned or produce tornadoes."

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Photos of damage from the twisters were posted online from locations including Paducah, Allgood, Ala., and Brownstown, Ind.

The National Weather Service said the storm system is moving east Friday into the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region. Strong winds, rain and some snow is forecast in the region Friday and Saturday.

Wind gusts though the Midwest Thursday registered at tropical storm strength -- including 70 mph in Newburgh, Ind.; 69 mph in Lexington, Ky.; and 67 mph was recorded in Findlay, Ohio, and Saginaw, Mich.

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In the coming days, the East will see warmer temperatures than normal but a cold front this weekend will cool off the region a bit, forecasters said. Parts of the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys could see some flooding.

"The biggest departures from normal are forecast to be across the southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley where daytime highs Friday and Saturday could be 10 to 20 degrees below normal," the NWS said.

The storm system produced a "bomb cyclone" in Colorado earlier this week and led to evacuations in Nebraska.

The combination of heavy rains and natural snow melting has created a flooding nightmare for Nebraska. Rescuers saved at least 37 people from flood waters Thursday and more rescues were Friday, said Nebraska National Guard Adjustant General Daryl Bohac.

A Columbus, Neb. area farmer has been confirmed dead and three others are missing.

Gov. Pete Ricketts surveyed the damage from the air Friday, calling it the worst flooding in half a century. At least 20 communities and 23 counties have been evacuated.

"As snow and rain pass, many communities have experienced devastating flooding. This could last for quite some time," Ricketts said. "Nebraskans should watch the weather and waterways in their communities closely in the coming days, and be prepared for historic levels of flooding even if it has not hit their community yet. As Nebraskans know, conditions can change quickly, and everyone needs to be prepared."

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