Heavy Rain, Floods Pound Midwest, With More On Tap

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Large swaths of three Midwest states were declared disaster areas as days of vicious storms and flooding forced rescuers into boats and residents to flee flooded communities. The death toll stood at eight and more rain was forecast Monday.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle sought emergency aid for 29 counties and President Bush late Sunday declared a major disaster in 29 Indiana counties. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said nearly a third of his state's 99 counties need federal help.

Flooding was expected to be a problem Monday and later in the week across the region as up to 10 inches of rain drains into already swollen rivers.

"This thing came on fast with such a radical deluge of water that people were describing going from a feeling of security to waist-deep water in a matter or 15 or 20 minutes," said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

While the Midwest tried to handle the onrushing water, the Northeast baked. Heat advisories were posted early Monday in New Jersey and temperatures around New York City were expected to pass the 100-degree mark.

The Midwest storms triggered horrible memories for people in the rural areas of western Wisconsin still struggling to recover from flash-flooding last August. Those floods sent entire houses sliding into highways, washed out roads and forced many to flee in the middle of the night.

Soldiers in Wisconsin were deployed Sunday evening to assist with the evacuation of 24 people in Ontario in rural Vernon County. Evacuations also occurred in Racine and Juneau counties and elsewhere across a 150-mile soaked swath of the state from Milwaukee to the Mississippi River.

On Sunday, blinding sheets of rain transformed the Kickapoo River into an angry rush of taffy-colored water and officials warned it could crest 6 feet over flood stage sometime Monday.

Gravel driveways and dirt roads became avalanches. Great muddy lakes covered farm fields. Bluffsides disintegrated, covering roads with trees, rocks and branches.

The area's small towns have become isolated islands. Roads leading into La Farge were all but blocked, Viola was unreachable and low-lying areas of Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills were underwater - again, officials said.

"It's exhausting," said Barb Edge, 50, who lives on the edge of the Kickapoo in Soldiers Grove. She said her house suffered $9,000 worth of damage in August. "We just got the damage repaired. It's just horrible."

The weekend death toll included a person killed when lightning struck a pavilion at a state park in Connecticut and a man who drowned in his vehicle about 50 miles south of Indianapolis.

Michigan's toll stood at six. Two people delivering newspapers early Sunday for The Grand Rapids Press in Michigan drowned after the road beneath their car collapsed and it plunged into a ravine.

Two other people in Michigan were killed by falling trees, a 76-year-old man apparently drowned while tending to a dam and a woman was killed when high winds blew a recreational vehicle on top of her, authorities said.

Residents of Indiana tried to cope with the aftermath of as much as 11 inches of rain swamping the state on Saturday. And more rain was on the way: The National Weather Service said a new storm system could drop from 1 to 3 inches of rain on the state late Monday.

About 1,500 people were asked to leave the towns of Elnora and Plainville, about 100 miles southwest of Indianapolis, because of flooding along the White River. In Morgan County, southwest of Indianapolis, about 150 residents were taken out of a flooded nursing home.

Officials moved more than 250 patients and employees from Columbus Regional Hospital in southern Indiana. Workers pumped water out of the basement, and a couple inches of mud covered the first floor of the center, which was forced to close.

Jack Elkins, 67, said his condominium near the hospital was inundated with water in a matter of minutes Saturday night. Once the storm drains filled up, it took 15 minutes for about 8 inches of water to ruin his place. "It looked like a river in front of my house," he said as he took a break from ripping up carpeting and flooring.

The storms struck on the 55th anniversary of the deadliest tornado in Michigan history. The June 8, 1953, tornado that struck the northern Flint community of Beecher and left a 23-mile path of destruction killed 116 people and injured another 844 along its path.

The storms popped up in central Kansas in the late afternoon and moved northeast toward Missouri, producing winds up to 80 mph and golf-ball sized hail in some areas, according to National Weather Service spotters.

One building and six cars at the correctional facility in El Dorado County east of Wichita suffered were damaged by hail nearly three inches in diameter, Butler County emergency personnel reported to the weather service.

In areas of Minnesota near the Iowa line, officials asked residents in the Winnebago Valley to evacuate. More than 60 people were being taken to a shelter in Caledonia from a campground and a flood warning was posted for the Root River near Houston.

Residents of Chicago's northern and southern suburbs spent Sunday cleaning up from at least seven tornadoes the night before. The storms tore roofs off homes, toppled power lines and overturned tractor-trailers.


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