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Thunderstorms raked Texas early Friday as authorities assessed the damage caused by tornadoes, while rain, flooding and high winds struck elsewhere in the Sun Belt and the Pacific Coast, the National Weather Service said.

At least seven tornadoes struck Thursday night in the Spearman-Perryton area in far northern Texas along a 30-mile area between Hansford and Ochiltree counties.A spokesman for the Hansford County Sheriff's Department said Friday, "The Red Cross is here, and they are making an assessment of the damages. We've had several homes destroyed. The Church of Christ sanctuary was totally destroyed," said Chief Deputy Gary Evans. "The tornado pretty well came through the middle (of town)."

A line of powerful thunderstorms swept east across Texas toward the Dallas-Fort Worth area early Friday, dumping torrential rain and lashing Texans with strong gusty winds.

In rain-weary east Texas, authorities said storms dumped about 6 inches of rain in the Lufkin area, about 150 miles southeast of Dallas, causing some street flooding Thursday.

Some areas of northeast Texas and northwestern Louisiana were inundated with up to 9 inches of rain in a 30-hour period, the weather service said.

Officials in northwest Texas reported 60-mph winds early Friday, while the weather service reported 65-mph gusts in southwestern Oklahoma.

High pressure kept much of the South relatively clear overnight but low-level southerly winds pushed moist gulf air into Mississippi, causing showers and thundershowers that dumped up to 7 inches of rain. Flooding in Vicksburg, Miss., forced the evacuation of numerous homes.

Firefighters in Vicksburg used high-pressure hoses Friday to wash mud and silt from more than 200 evacuated homes and businesses following the worst flash flooding to hit the area in 30 years, said Civil Defense Director Luther Warnock.


(Additional information)

`Rain dance' gets results

It rained nine days after an Indian water ceremony, and Three Valleys Municipal Water District officials coping with a four-year drought are impressed.

"I'm a pragmatic person," said Three Valleys Municipal Water District executive Paul Stiglich, whose agency in Claremont, Calif., paid for the ceremony. "The Indians came. They danced. It rained. We'll probably send them a thank-you note."

Tony Romero, the 67-year-old patriarch of the Chumash Reservation in Santa Ynez, said it wasn't exactly a rain dance. It was a water ceremony, he said, an act of reverence for one of the Earth's natural resources.

Three Valleys provides water for about 500,000 residents of the eastern San Gabriel Valley, 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

The district paid Romero and his family $1,000 to perform at an annual water awareness luncheon on May 18. Nine days later, a surprise 1-inch deluge soaked the region. Not enough to stop the drought, but a nice surprise, officials said.