April 26, 2016 / 6:05 PM / 4 years ago

Tornadoes, strong storms hit central U.S. states

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A powerful spring storm brought strong winds and baseball-sized hail to several central states on Tuesday, with tornadoes spotted in Kansas and Oklahoma as the severe weather marched east, forecasters said.

The storm knocked down tree limbs and left about 20,000 people in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area without power, utility provider OG&E and local officials said.

Hail and falling branches caused damage to cars and roofs across portions of the Great Plains, and tornadoes were reported in Kansas and Oklahoma, but the region was spared the destructive twisters that forecasters said could have been spawned by the storm system.

There have so far been no reports of serious injuries.

A tornado watch was still in effect for portions of Texas and Oklahoma but the alert had expired late on Tuesday in eastern Kansas and southern Nebraska, according to the National Weather Service.

Thunderstorms that could lead to flooding were possible on Wednesday in Arkansas, northwest Louisiana, eastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas, the service said.

Large hail hit several areas in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma on Tuesday, and schools in Oklahoma City and some of its suburbs closed early ahead of the severe weather.

In Missouri, high winds snapped power lines while winds in Illinois caused empty grain railcars to flip over, the service said based on local reports.

In Marshall County, Kansas, there were reports of grapefruit-sized hail falling on the community of Bremen, the local emergency management agency said.

Hail storms in Texas in late March and earlier this month hit major cities including Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio, causing damages estimated at several billion dollars.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz, additional reporting by Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City and Victoria Cavaliere in New York; editing by Tom Brown, Himani Sarkar and Tom Hogue

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