ST. LOUIS (AP) — A broad swath of the Midwest readied for hail, damaging winds and possibly tornadoes Thursday as a strong storm front rumbled through the Plains.
In central Indiana, a 75-year-old woman died Wednesday night after being swept into a rain-swollen creek near Indianapolis. Pittsboro Fire Chief Bill Zeunik said the woman, identified as Doris D. Martin, was clearing debris from a water-filled ditch in her front yard along with her husband when she fell in and was swept away into a drainage pipe. Martin's body was found in a creek nearly a mile away.
A tornado was reported near Peoria, Illinois, on Thursday afternoon but there were no immediate reports of damage.
The National Weather Service's "enhanced risk" area stretched from northeast Texas to Michigan, Wisconsin and across the upper Midwest. Forecasters say Philadelphia, Washington and other parts of the Atlantic coast could see the same weather patterns Friday, including Augusta, Georgia, where the Masters golf tournament is taking place through the weekend.
"It's quite an expansive area," said Greg Carbin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
In Wisconsin, an interstate north of Milwaukee was closed for several hours Thursday morning after several vehicles became partially submerged in flood water due to heavy rain.
Tornado watches were posted Thursday for northern Illinois — including Chicago — and areas of Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin. Parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas were covered by another tornado watch, and severe thunderstorms were expected in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.
The severe weather forced the cancellation of more than 700 flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and flight delays of 90 minutes. Another 30 flights were cancelled at the city's Midway International Airport, with delays of up to 45 minutes.
Tornadoes were reported Wednesday and early Thursday in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, but those areas saw minimal damage from the year's first widespread bout of severe weather.
And in Michigan, lightning strikes caused a fire at a mobile home and a fire place explosion, according to authorities. No one was injured in either incident.
By mid-afternoon, temperatures in downtown St. Louis topped 80 degrees under bright sunshine. The balmy burst arrived in stark contrast to temperatures in parts of the northeast; freezing drizzle in New Hampshire delayed some school openings and more than 2 inches of snow postponed the first game of the season for the Portland Sea Dogs in Portland, Maine.
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