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Spring delivers tornado, flooding to central US

Darren Abate / AP

Josie Juarez sits in the ruins of her home in Devine, Texas, on Tuesday after a tornado swept through overnight. Juarez' 15-year-old daughter, Jesse, who was the only person home when the tornado hit, survived by taking shelter in the bathroom.

Heavy rain, hail and at least one tornado struck the central U.S. overnight and the forecast on the first day of spring was for more of the same.

Storms rattled Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday morning with thunder so strong that it registered on seismic equipment. Meteorologist Pete Snyder felt his home shake and several concerned residents called the National Weather Service to ask if there had been an earthquake.

"We have seen quite a bit of thunder on all of our seismic stations across the state," said Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey. "We can confidently say there were no earthquakes large enough to be widely felt."

The National Weather Service said a tornado touched down Monday evening about 25 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas. Eight people were hurt.

"We have multiple homes damaged, several homes were taken by this tornado," said Roy Bermudez, a deputy with the Medina County Sheriff's Office.

Thousands of customers lost power in San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth, where strong winds and rain pelted the area, and power outages were reported in Oklahoma City and Tulsa County.

Flights were stopped temporarily Monday night at Love Field airport and some 35 flights were canceled Tuesday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Dozens of San Antonio streets were closed by high water from flash flooding or by debris.

The San Antonio Fire Department reported at least two house fires that may have been caused by lightning strikes. A truck driver had to be rescued in San Antonio after a live power line was blown onto his truck by the strong winds, trapping him inside.

The fresh crop of storms comes after two tornadoes damaged homes and railcars in North Platte, Neb., on Sunday. One of the twisters, which injured four people, was measured at EF3, with winds up to 165 mph.

Flooding remains a serious concern across the affected areas.

Chicago saw several days of record-breaking 80 degree weather, and in Atlanta, Ga., pollen counts are setting records as well. But in Flagstaff, Ariz., the city is digging out of its second largest snowstorm. Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel reports.

Eight inches of rain was expected in southeastern Kansas, which has been unusually dry for nearly a year. Forecasters said the Marmaton River at Fort Scott, Kan., would likely exceed flood stage later Tuesday, but drop again Thursday when the rain subsides.

Emergency management officials said they're keeping an eye on the clouds but feel that southeast Kansas can handle several days of rain.

In Arkansas, however, emergency management officials readied teams to respond to flash floods, especially in the western part of the state where the heaviest downpour was expected. The U.S. Forest Service closed campsites preemptively Monday, exercising caution after 20 people died in a flash flood at a remote campground in 2010.

Forecasters in Tulsa said the slow-moving storm was expected to stall over the area, dumping up to 12 inches of rain.

When rain falls in the the hills and valleys, "it's quickly funneled into small rivers and streams," said B.J. Simpson, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "Those are the most dangerous areas."

Still, even flatlands could see the potential for runoff and flash floods if the rain comes too fast for the ground to absorb it.

"There's really no amount of dry ground that can take up to 10 inches of rain in a couple day timeframe," Simpson said.

The rains come at a time when south and central Texas are still in the grips of a drought that began early in 2011. It developed into the state's worst one-year drought ever.

"The more water we can get now the better off we'll be down the road, later on this year," said Roland Ruiz, Assistant General Manager of the Edwards Aquifer Authority, which manages the region's water supply.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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