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Storms precede season's first freeze across South

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Storms raked across the central United States from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes ahead of an arctic blast that forecasters say could bring record cold to the South.

Temperatures were predicted to drop as much as 30 degrees in a few hours on Thursday. Forecasters said severe storms were possible from Alabama to New England. Winds were gusting above 30 mph (48 kph) in some areas, but no damage was reported immediately.

A freeze warning reached across more than dozen states, from southwestern Texas into the South and Midwest.

The storms provided another round of drought relief across the Southeast after weeks of dry weather endangered crops and increased fire risks. But a new federal report showed much of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are still too dry.

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