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Midwest thaw gives way to deep chill

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Midwesterners who had briefly swapped puffy coats for sandals and shorts switched back Tuesday as balmy conditions gave way to severe storms that carried a risk of tornadoes, freezing rain, and, later, snow.

Record high temperatures across a swath of the central United States were being followed by thunderstorms and strong winds from Texas to ­Alabama and as far north as Michigan.

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The temperature in the central Missouri college town of Columbia reached 77 degrees on Monday, a record for January, and students exchanged their winter coats for shorts and flip-flops as freezing rain gave way to spring-like conditions. Foul weather made a quick return, however, with a Tuesday downpour that flooded some streets near the University of Missouri campus. Snow was expected early Wednesday morning.

Chicago residents also have been whiplashed by recent weather extremes. Workers who suffered through subzero temperatures and brutal wind chills a week ago strolled through downtown without coats Tuesday as temperatures soared into the mid-60s. Women wore skirts over bare legs, and joggers were in shorts and T-shirts.

The rapidly changing conditions created a risk of tornadoes.

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