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Tornado touchdown, storm damage reported across Memphis area


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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A tornado touched down northeast of Memphis as part of a storm front that swept across West Tennessee as voters headed to the polls on Super Tuesday.

Authorities confirmed a tornado touchdown near Arlington, about 25 miles northeast of downtown Memphis, said Jeremy Heidt, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. The twister knocked out a radio tower for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Power outages, downed trees and other storm damage was reported across Shelby County.

One large storm cell passed near Memphis International Airport, said John Greaud, the airport's vice president of operations. The cell showed tornadic activity, he said, but a touchdown had not yet been confirmed.

Officials suspended flights for a short time, shut down the tower and escorted passengers and workers in the terminals into safe rooms away from windows, he said.

Flights had resumed as of 6 p.m., he said. The airport is home base for FedEx Corp. and is the busiest cargo airport in the world.

The roof of the fire station next to the FedEx hub at the airport was damaged, but there weren't any service interruptions, company spokeswoman Jennifer Caccavo said.

Forecasters had been expecting severe weather and election officials were concerned that storms could interfere with what was expected to be a record turnout for a presidential primary. Polls statewide were scheduled to close at 7 p.m.

A message left with Shelby County election officials seeking details on the progress of voting was not immediately returned.

Dyer County in northwestern Tennessee, where severe weather was also forecast, closed its precincts an hour early.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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