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STORMS RAKE PLAINS AS LIGHTNING KILLS 3 IN FLORIDA

Strong thunderstorms, hail and winds up to 78 mph pounded the Plains states Tuesday, causing power outages, downing trees and prompting tornado warnings for south central Nebraska. Lightning was blamed for three deaths in Florida.

The storm system moved through Nebraska and Kansas early Tuesday and thunderstorms also were reported from the Dakotas to Minnesota and Wisconsin.The tornado warning was issued for south central Nebraska by the National Weather Service about midnight after winds gusted to 78 mph at the weather service office in Hamilton, and there were reports of downed trees and power lines.

Storms with winds to 70 mph raced across northeast and north central Kansas at speeds of up to 50 mph, and forecasters warned residents to enter reinforced shelters in preparation for large hail, heavy rain and dangerous lightning.

The storm system cut a path 55 miles wide from southeast of Lincoln, Neb., to just north of Russell, Kan.

Thunderstorms were reported in North Dakota through Minnesota and into central Wisconsin. Dime-size hail was reported in Eau Claire, Wis., in the northwestern part of the state.

Lightning killed three people in Florida Monday.

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W. Texas forest fire

A lightning strike in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park Monday ignited a forest fire that threatened large areas of the west Texas preserve, forest officials said. Lightning started the fire about 3 p.m. and by 7:30 p.m. the blaze had charred "10 to 15 acres plus" of the park, said Bob Valen, a National Forest Service spokeman. "We're into third-year drought conditions," he said. "When things get hit, they really go up." Extremely dry weather, moderate winds and a dense population of conifers in the high-country region of the park were feeding the blaze, which was dubbed the "Frijole Pete Fire," Valen said.