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Twisters, Floods And Heat Batter Midwest

Torrential rain, yes. Tornadoes, yes. And stifling heat was on its way.

But Thursday's forecast of historic twisters in the Plains thankfully produced no reports of new deaths, and there were far fewer severe weather cautions Friday.

Computer forecasting models for Thursday resembled those on June 8, 1974, when 39 tornadoes raked the southern Plains and killed 22 people. The National Weather Service on Tuesday took the unusual step of giving advance warning of a possible tornado outbreak based on the conditions.

By Friday morning, no storms had caused major damage or injuries, though Noreen Schwein of the National Weather Service in Kansas City cautioned there was still potential for strong storms.

"We're certainly not out of the woods yet," she said.

Heat into the 90s through the weekend in parts of the Midwest and East was already plaguing crews in southwestern Ohio as they worked - feverishly - to restore power after thunderstorms and tornadoes in a week of crazy weather.

Cincinnati declared a heat alert and opened cooling centers, with temperatures in the 90s forecast for the weekend as far east as New York City.

Runoff from heavy rain early Friday forced the evacuation of about a dozen homes in Cambridge in central Iowa. The evacuations were along two streets in a low-lying area in the town of about people. Residents fled about 3 a.m., with no injuries reported.

"The ground is just fully saturated. The runoff from the community just all comes to that part of town. This is probably the worst it's ever been," said Lori Morrissey, the emergency management coordinator for Story County.

Morrissey said more than 2 inches of rain fell in storms that began Thursday night in the region, and flooding remains the top concern.

Frank Boska, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Johnston, Iowa, said said 3.7 inches of rain fell overnight at the Des Moines International Airport. Streets in downtown were covered with water and several manhole covers popped off.

In Kansas, some homes and businesses were damaged and a couple of circus elephants got rattled by storms in WaKeeney. One of the animals entered a backyard less than a mile from fairgrounds in town and was blocked off by fire trucks until trainers could coax it onto a truck, Trego County Sheriff Richard Schneider said.

"I guess it got tired of walking around," he said.

The second elephant was tranquilized in another backyard, coaxed into a truck and returned to the circus, which was already packing up to head to the next town, Schneider said.

A twister in Clay County in north-central Kansas destroyed a home, damaged several other buildings and toppled trees and power lines, sheriff's dispatcher Cat Dallinga said. Storms also damaged roofs at the Pratt County airport in south-central Kansas and overturned tractor-trailers along Interstate 29, officials said.

Wind and hail caused extensive roof damage in Collyer, near WaKeeney, Schneider said.