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      Strong storms bring flooding, lightning damage

      Wednesday marked the first spring day with strong and severe thunderstorms marching across mid-Missouri.

      Heavy storms started pushing through the area before dawn, dropping nearly two inches of rain in Columbia and Jefferson City, to over an inch and a half at the Lake of the Ozarks.

      Many Midwesterners remember the extreme drought last year, and countless rivers were bone dry by the end of the summer. That is not the case so far in 2013.

      Three major winter storms dropped several inches of snow that eventually melted to fill up bodies of water, not counting the rainfall the area has recieved since January 1.

      After tWednesday's rain, the Missouri River at Jefferson City rose about one and a half feet, and is forecast to rise to 16.9 feet by Saturday morning. Flood stage is 23 feet.

      The Moreau River at Jefferson City rose from three feet to just above four feet Wednesday. It's forecast to rise to almost 21 feet by Thursday night - four feet above flood stage.

      The Moreau was moving quickly Wednesday afternoon during a lull in the rain. Moving water could become an issue for drivers if the water reaches the bridge level.

      Homeowners in low-lying areas should be prepared to move to higher ground if necessary.

      Forecasters keep an eye on these river gauges and issue watches, advisories and warnings based on additional rainfall and smaller streams that feed into larger rivers.

      Rain was not the only concern with Wednesday's hazardous weather. Many mid-Missourians woke up to loud thunder and frequent lightning.

      Lightning struck the bell tower of the First Christian Church in Jefferson City a little after 8:00 a.m., knocking rocks down onto the roof and breaking some slate tiles.

      A traffic signal was also struck and damaged by lightning in Columbia at I-70 and Providence Road around 11:00 a.m.