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Strong storms march toward East Coast after killing 3 and tearing apart homes

Storms killed one person and injured five in Mississippi on Thursday were part of a massive system that stretched from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports.

 A vast storm system that spawned tornadoes and killed three people marched toward the East Coast on Friday, delivering spring snow and ice to New England and promising to drench some of the country’s most populous cities.

On Thursday, storms tore through the Great Plains, Midwest and South. Tornadoes were reported in Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi, and tens of thousands of people were left without power.

Storms blew the steeple off a church and killed someone in Mississippi, and a utility worker was electrocuted repairing damage in Missouri. Earlier in the week, a Nebraska woman died trying to trudge through a vicious snowstorm from her car to her home.

In Shuqualak, Miss., Kathy Coleman said she was outside her home Thursday, signing for a delivery of dialysis medication, when the storm hit. The deliveryman rushed her into the house, and the two of them huddled with the housekeeper in the bathroom.

“All I could hear was trees breaking and falling and glass,” she said. “He started praying and I started praying. Thank God he was here.”

Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Residents begin cleanup of debris from homes hit by a tornado in Shuqualak, Miss.

More coverage from The Weather Channel

Umbrellas bloomed at the Masters golf tournament in Georgia, and elsewhere in the state roofs were ripped off buildings and wrapped around trees like pieces of paper, one witness said.

In Rome, Ga., a wooden beam shot through a house 3 feet from where Tim Crouch was standing.

“I’m lucky,” he said. “I’m sure there are some folks out there who can’t go back to their home.”

On Friday, the system still had remarkable reach — bending from the Canadian border in snowy North Dakota through the Great Lakes and punishing the East Coast with storms all the way to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Bob Gathany / al.com via AP

Lightning strikes downtown Huntsville, Ala., as strong storms moved into Madison County Thursday.

Tornado watches were in effect in eastern Virginia and North Carolina. Parts of New Hampshire were expected to get 3 to 5 inches of snow, according to meteorologists for The Weather Channel. New York City, Boston and Washington were expecting heavy rain.

The storm was also having some positive effects, bringing much-needed rain to drought-stricken farmland in the Midwest.

Heavy rain on Friday morning even helped extinguish a wildfire that burned across 3,400 acres on the west side of the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., according to a Marine Corps press release. 

Forecasters said a similar storm pattern was taking shape for next week, probably Tuesday through Thursday, packing both snow and severe thunderstorms as it plows east.

The Rockies, parts of the Plains and Upper Midwest could get snow again, The Weather Channel said, and severe storms could rip through the southern Plains and the Mississippi Valley.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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