Midwest, plains residents recover from storms, flooding


A powerful storm system that swamped the upper Midwest and killed at least six people moved into Ohio today as weary Minnesota residents returned to their water-logged homes. For many, it was a surreal scene.

Orange Xs marked buildings that had been searched for survivors. Canoes lay in the streets. At a campground in Houston County, picnic tables hung from trees.

Mud several inches deep covered streets in parts of Rushford, and some sidewalks had collapsed.

"Some people had to cut holes in their roofs to get out, the water was so deep," said Jack O'Donnell, chief deputy with the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office.

The storm was one of two systems that flooded towns in the Midwest and southern Plains over the weekend. The second, the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin, killed six people in Oklahoma, eight in Texas and one in Missouri, where up to 11 inches of rain fell in a few hours Monday.

This morning, heavy rain in Ohio caused flooding that closed a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 75 in the northwest part of the state, the Highway Patrol said.

Nearby, motorists were urged to stay out of Wyandot County because of extensive flooding caused by more than 8 inches of rain, and authorities were busy rescuing motorists from stalled cars, sheriff's Lt. Neil Riedlinger said.

Water was — feet deep today in downtown Carey, Ohio, and a local nursing home had to be evacuated, Riedlinger said. Firefighters in the north-central Ohio town of Bucyrus used a boat to rescue families from flooded homes.

In Minnesota, divers and the crew of a National Guard helicopter searched for Jered Lorenz, 37, whose overturned car was found lodged in the rocks along a creek near Lewiston.

Fifteen miles to the south, the National Guard controlled access to the city of Rushford, escorting residents in just long enough for them to grab pets, clothing, medicine and other emergency supplies.

Rushford City administrator Windy Block said residents may be allowed back for good today if electrical power is restored and the storm sewer works. She estimated that at least a third of the town's 1,800 residents suffered damage from the flooding of Rush Creek.

Hundreds of people fled their homes in southwestern Wisconsin as the deluge turned the countryside in Vernon, Crawford and Richland counties into bogs, drowned crops and strained dams nearly to the breaking point. Damage estimates hit nearly $30 million and were expected to keep climbing.

Southwestern Wisconsin was under another flash flood watch tonight and Wednesday, with a chance of rain through Friday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Swerman.

The town of Soldiers Grove, Wis., lost part of a road to flooding. In nearby Gays Mills, flooding filled downtown with waist-deep, peanut butter-colored water. Mason Evans Jr. said water was 8 feet deep in his house in Gays Mills.

"It broke me," Evans said. "I lost everything."


On the Net:

Weather Underground: http:www.wunderground.com/

National Weather Service: http:iwin.nws.noaa.gov/

Intellicast: http:www.intellicast.com/

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