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April 19, 2013

Spring storm brings extremes

ST. LOUIS — A powerful spring storm system stretching from southern Texas to northern Michigan unleashed a wave of weather extremes on the Midwest on Thursday and threatened to bring its mix of hard rains, high winds and severe thunderstorms to the East by the weekend.

The massive system was wreaking havoc from the Rockies to the Rust Belt.

Up to a foot of snow was expected in parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas. Snow and ice closed highways in Colorado and Wyoming.

Rivers surged beyond their banks from downpours in Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. Tornadoes caused scattered damage in Oklahoma.

Hail caused a wreck that injured a high school teacher and her students. Lightning temporarily knocked out a nuclear power plant. Rain caused a sinkhole that devoured three cars in Chicago.

In the Plains and Midwest, seemingly every community was under some sort of watch or warning.

Alex Sosnowski, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, said the storm’s biggest punch had come from its intense rainfall.

“There’s been a general 3 to 6 inch swath of rain from portions of Oklahoma all the way up to southern Wisconsin,” he said.

The system will thin out as it heads east but could still spell trouble in the Appalachian Mountain region today and in some spots along the East Coast by tonight, Sosnowski said.

Perhaps the storm’s most bizarre scene came in Chicago, where a massive sinkhole opened and swallowed two parked cars and one that was driving through. The driver was hospitalized but was expected to survive.

Winds, possibly from a tornado, damaged dozens of homes in Spavinaw, Okla., injuring one person.

Another twister damaged a few buildings near Paris, Mo. High winds also blew two tractor-trailers off a highway near Monroe City, Mo.

In Kansas, large hail was blamed for an accident that injured six high school students and their teacher.

The Kansas Highway Patrol said the wreck happened Wednesday on Interstate 70 near Russell.

The group was returning to school from an art exhibition when the teacher lost control of the SUV and struck a car.

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