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Floods plague several U.S. midwestern states

CHICAGO, March 20 (Reuters) - Floods that ravaged a broad swathe of the U.S. Midwest from Missouri eastward to the Ohio Valley contributed to deaths of more than a dozen people, according to reports on Thursday.

President George W. Bush declared 70 Missouri counties as disaster areas, and the National Guard was deployed in hard-hit areas of the state after deadly storms that dumped up to a foot (30.5 cm) of rain sent rivers out of their banks.

Media and official reports across the Midwest region said more than a dozen people had died, some swept away by flood waters, others in traffic accidents blamed on the storms and high waters.

"The worst of the rain is over with," said Rob Miller, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. But he said flood waters will not peak in some areas until Saturday.

The Missouri Emergency Management Agency reported dozens of homes destroyed or damaged across the state, and widespread evacuations. It listed five flood-related deaths in the state and said state roads were closed by high water at more than 200 points.

Forecasters meanwhile greeted the first day of spring with winter weather warnings, with a new storm expected to dump up to 6 inches (15.2) of snow from southeastern North Dakota through southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, eastward to the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia on Friday and Saturday.

Reporting by Mike Conlon, editing by Peter Bohan and Vicki Allen

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