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One dead as vast storm rakes South, Midwest

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 12:04 p.m. CDT

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A large storm system packing high winds, hail and several possible tornadoes tore across a wide swath of the South and Midwest on Wednesday, killing one person, blacking out power to thousands and damaging homes.

The death was reported when a large tree blew down on a shed in Nashville, Tenn., where a man was sheltering, police told Nashville broadcaster WTVF-TV. Authorities did not immediately release further details when reached by The Associated Press.

In Arkansas, another person was reported injured by lightning during the storm’s eastward trek. The severe weather system ushered in a cold front as it raced toward the Eastern seaboard, dumping rain over the region.

The rapidly changing conditions created a risk of tornadoes in the nation’s midsection and South. The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the threat was greatest in recent hours in northeast Texas, northern Louisiana, northwest Mississippi, southeast Missouri and much of Arkansas.

The center said it was investigating reports of at least four possible tornadoes in states including Arkansas and Mississippi. Hail ranging up to nearly golf-ball size was also reported in some areas and barns and other buildings collapsed or were damaged, the center added.

Thousands were reported without power in Tennessee, where tornado warnings and flash flood warnings were issued for several counties and a tractor-trailer truck was blown over by high winds. Authorities east of Nashville said they were checking a possible tornado in Mount Juliet, where the top floor of a three-story building was damaged.

Entergy Arkansas Inc. reported at least 9,000 power outages in several communities around Arkansas at the height of the storm, including in and around Little Rock.

Power lines fell, trees were toppled and some homes suffered damage to rooftops, reports indicated. The weather service said suspected straight-line winds of up to 80 mph were reported in Arkansas late Tuesday night along with flooding in Arkansas’ northeastern corner.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency urged residents to be on guard for severe thunderstorms, high winds and possible tornadoes Wednesday.

Earlier this week, a large swath of the Midwest and South bathed in unseasonably balmy temperatures that reached the high 70s in some areas.

On Monday, the National Weather Service predicted a “moderate” risk of severe weather more than 24 hours out, only the fifth time it had done so in January in the past 15 years, said Gregory Carbin, the director of the Storm Prediction Center.

A system pulling warm weather from the Gulf of Mexico was colliding with a cold front moving in from the west, creating volatility.

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