Storms bring heavy snow, hail, rains to central U.S

KANSAS CITY, Missouri Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:55pm EDT

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - High winds and heavy snow and rain whipped through parts of the central United States on Wednesday, knocking out power for thousands of people and closing schools and businesses.

Storm watchers were tracking a line of severe weather from Arkansas through southeastern Missouri into Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, with tornado watches issued by the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center for Arkansas and Missouri.

"It will be a long night in Arkansas for sure," said Greg Carbin, meteorologist for the Storm Prediction Center. "Tomorrow it will be probably another round for the southeast."

Heavy snow in South Dakota prompted state offices to close Wednesday, as more than 2 feet of snow was forecast for the parts of that state. North Dakota also saw heavy snow and Kansas City was under a flash flood warning due to heavy rainfall.

The severe conditions set in Tuesday, grounding nearly 500 flights out of Denver International Airport and dropping hail, some tennis ball-sized, through Texas and Oklahoma. Hail fell 1.5 inches deep in southwest Oklahoma, where winds up to 59 miles per hour were recorded, the National Weather Service said.

But conditions in the Plains were tamer Wednesday. Denver International reported clear runways and a resumption of normal flight schedules.

The heavy rain and snow should prove beneficial to areas of the Plains that have been stricken by persistent drought. Soil moisture levels have been so depleted that farmers have been fearful they may not be able to produce a crop this year. But this bout of precipitation helps, said Carbin.

"We'll take everything we can get even if it comes with a little bit of hail and wind," he said. "There are aspects of this system that are actually quite beneficial."

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; additional reporting by Steve Olafson in Oklahoma City; Editing by Scott Malone, Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang)

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