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Eastern U.S. could get rain, snow from storm that killed three

MIAMI (Reuters) - A cold front moved eastward across the United States on Friday, spreading heavy rain and thunderstorms from Florida to the northeastern states and snow in New England.

It was part of a broad storm blamed for at least three deaths as it moved across the nation earlier in the week.

The system will bring much cooler weather to the East Coast during the weekend, forecasters at the National Weather Service said.

"Mixed wintry weather is also expected for parts of the Great Lakes and into northern New England where the air is cold enough for that," the forecasters said.

The chilly spring will not end this weekend -- a similar pattern of snow, cold and thunderstorms is expected for the mid-section of the country for the middle of next week, according to forecasters.

The storm brought heavy snow to Colorado, South Dakota and Minnesota early in the week. In Nebraska, the state patrol said 37-year-old Lisa Conrad of Berea, Nebraska, died from exposure on Tuesday after abandoning her disabled car and trying to walk to her home a mile away during a blinding snowstorm.

The system spun off a tornado that killed one person and injured five in Mississippi on Thursday, and brought, hail, damaging winds and twisters to Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

A total of 64 homes and 13 businesses were either destroyed or sustained major damage in Kemper and Noxubee counties, Mississippi, according to the state's emergency management agency. The Mississippi tornado was at least an EF-3 with winds of up to 165 mph, the agency said.

High winds and heavy wet snow downed power lines in several states, and outages persisted on Friday in nearly every state from Missouri eastward.

A worker for the Ameren Missouri utility was electrocuted on Thursday while helping restore power knocked out by the storm in the St. Louis area, the company said.

The stormy weather has had some positive results, adding valuable soil moisture to drought-stricken cropland in the Midwest.

Heavy rain Friday morning also helped extinguish a wildfire that burned across 3,400 acres of training areas on the west side of the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, for more than 72 hours, according to a Marine Corps press release.

It was the largest fire base officials have seen in 25 years, according to the release. More than 200 firefighters from the Marine Corps Base Quantico Fire Department, plus regional fire and rescue units, assisted in containing the blaze, the Corps said.

The chilly weather pattern is expected to repeat over the middle of the nation next week, with waves of cold, snow, rain and thunderstorms next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, according to Accuweather.com.

Significant snowfall is expected to revisit the central and northern plains from Denver to Minneapolis to Green Bay, while rain and thunderstorms will stretch from Iowa south to eastern Texas and Mississippi.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas, Sam Nelson in Chicago, Ian Simpson in Washington, D.C., Katie Schubert in Nebraska and Jane Sutton in Florida; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid, Mary Wisniewski, Greg McCune and Bob Burgdorfer)

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