Water-covered roads slow commute, Nat'l Guard activated in N. Minnesota

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Storms rolled across much of Minnesota overnight, rumbling through the metro in the pre-dawn hours with sharp cracks of thunder, spectacular lightning flashes and wind-whipped rain – 1 to 3 inches worth across the Twin Cities.

Forecasters say heavy rain and water-covered roads are slowing commutes all over the metro.

A flash flood watch has been extended until 1 a.m. Friday for much of southern Minnesota and central parts of the state.

The National Weather Service also issued a "special weather statement" that notes the 1-3 inches of rain in much of the metro has led to flooded streams and ponding on roads.

The Star Tribune has a live weather/travel blog going Thursday, and noted just a few of many trouble spots Thursday morning: The right lane of Highway 280 at Hennepin Avenue; westbound Interstate 494 at Pilot Knob Road and at Portland Avenue; Highway 169 in Belle Plaine.

KSTP noted there was significant road flooding near the Mall of America, where cars at one point were stalled.

Much of Minnesota is already waterlogged from persistent rains in recent days, with more precipitation in the forecast:

On the Minnesota-Canada border, where residents are exhausted by floodwater battles, another inch of rain is expected in the next few days. Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday authorized 100 Minnesota National Guard personnel to aid in efforts to protect property, and more volunteers were mobilizing, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

In drenched southwest Minnesota, some farm fields had nearly a foot of rain, the Associated Press notes. Up to 30 counties in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa could have significant crop loss from damaging rain, hail and wind, MPR reports.

Mankato has been hit hard – heavy rain caused minor mudslides and flooded basements. A lightning strike split tree and sent a 10-foot-long splinter into the side of a house, the Mankato Free Press reports.

In nearby Owatonna, about an hour south of the metro, officials declared a state of emergency Tuesday night after the Straight River overflowed its banks.

Law enforcement officers across the state have rescued a number of people stranded by rising waters in recent days. They issued another round of warnings to drivers to stay out of flooded roads: Turn around, don't drown.

Also overnight, weather spotters confirmed a tornado touched down about 3 miles northeast of Marshall, Minnesota, at about 10:30 p.m. There was no immediate damage report.

Several tornadoes touched down earlier in the evening in northeastern South Dakota, according to KSFY TV in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, including one in the town of Wessington Springs.

The town sustained widespread damage from the storm. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard ordered 100 National Guard troops to the area to help with cleanup, and he arrived in Wessington Springs shortly before midnight to survey the damage.

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