Torrential rains, damaging winds on tap for U.S. midsection

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[April 29, 2017]  (Reuters) - A dangerous storm front will thrash the U.S. midsection over the weekend with torrential rainfall, damaging winds and large hail that will leave behind the threat of flooding throughout the region, the National Weather Service warned.

On Friday night, thunderstorms had already clobbered several communities in the southern Midwest with winds that took down trees and power lines while a reported rain-wrapped tornado in Lawrence, Illinois damaged a house, destroyed a structure and caused power outages, the weather service said.

On Saturday, a large swath of the region - from northern Texas up through Michigan - can expect torrential downpours that will produce 7 inches (18 cm) of rain, large hail and damaging wind gusts of 60 miles (95 km) per hour, the weather service predicted.

"The widespread and very heavy rain may produce life threatening flash flooding," the weather service said in an advisory.

Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma told travelers on Twitter to "expect delays" and to check their flight with their airline as severe weather moves through the area.

The region has already received about 400 percent or more of normal moisture in the last week and will be highly sensitive to additional rainfall, the service said.

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Evacuations could be necessary as areas along swollen waterways could see widespread flooding as the weather service issued flood warnings and watches for the weekend and into next week.

"Be very careful if out in the flooding rain. Many road closures. Never drive through a flooded road," tweeted Ben Pine, a meteorologist for an ABC affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky.

To the west, a winter storm was expected to dump as much as a foot of wet, heavy snow (30 cm) in parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Texas, the National Weather Service said.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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