3 homes washed away in Wis.; Midwest rivers swell - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

3 homes washed away in Wis.; Midwest rivers swell

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Posted: Monday, June 9, 2008 12:47 pm | Updated: 11:28 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

ONTARIO, Wis. - Floodwaters washed away three houses and threatened dams in Wisconsin Monday as military crews joined desperate sandbagging operations to stop Indiana streams flooding to record levels.

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ONTARIO, Wis. - Floodwaters washed away three houses and threatened dams in Wisconsin Monday as military crews joined desperate sandbagging operations to stop Indiana streams flooding to record levels.

Watch related video

The East Coast simmered through a heat wave with temperatures climbing toward the century mark.

Ten deaths were blamed on stormy weekend weather, most in the Midwest. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle declared an emergency 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.

Three houses were washed away by water flowing over a dam on Lake Delton on Wisconsin's Sauke County, in the south-central part of the state. Rivers in several parts of the Midwest swelled with the runoff from heavy weekend rainfall, topped by the 11 inches that fell Saturday in Indiana.

"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, who canceled a trade mission to Japan.

In Wisconsin's Columbia County, a couple of thousand people were urged to evacuate homes below two dams where water was spilling over the tops, county emergency management officials said.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources engineers were being sent across the state to survey other dams.

Some small Wisconsin towns became isolated islands. "It ain't normal," said Monte Sheldon, 47, who lost part of his yard to erosion outside Viroqua, Wis.

A new storm system was headed toward the Ohio Valley from the southern Plains on Monday - Oklahoma got up to 6 inches of rain by late morning and utilities reported nearly 5,000 customers blacked out - and the National Weather Service said as much as 3 inches of rain could fall on already waterlogged Indiana late Monday.

Some 200 Indiana National Guard members and 140 Marines and sailors joined local emergency agencies Monday in sandbagging a levee of the White River at Elnora, about 100 miles southwest of Indianapolis. The White River was forecast to crest Tuesday at nearby Newberry at 16 feet above flood stage.

Local officials said they wanted to raise nearly a mile of levees as much as 3 feet.

By Monday morning, flooding at eight sites in central and southern Indiana had eclipsed levels set in the deluge of March 1913, which had been considered Indiana's greatest flood in modern times, said Scott Morlock, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Indiana.

Those sites included Newberry, where the White River reached 28.04 feet Monday morning, topping the record of 26.98 feet set in March 1913.

While the Midwest fought to cope with flooding, the East was locked in a sauna. Heat advisories were posted Monday from the Carolinas to Connecticut, with temperatures expected to hit 100 from Georgia to New York, the National Weather Service said. Raleigh-Durham, N.C., hit a record 101 on Sunday.

"It's just crazy. ... It's really, really hot," said New York City street worker Jessica Pena as she swept a midtown Manhattan street at around 8:15 a.m. The temperature already was in the upper 80s.

About 17,000 customers in and around New York City were blacked out by thunderstorms that struck late Sunday and the rising demand for electricity Monday to run air conditioners, utilities said. A subway system power outage disrupted some morning rush hour service.

New York City opened 300 cooling centers Monday, said Office of Emergency Management spokesman Chris Gilbride. District of Columbia officials declared Monday and Tuesday Code Red days for poor air quality, and schools in parts of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland closed early as class rooms heated up. Employees at the Ohio Department of Health got the day off because of trouble with the air conditioning in their building.

PJM, the electric power grid for 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states and the District of Columbia, asked customers to conserve energy because of expected high demand.

The flooding in Wisconsin and Indiana was just part of the result of intense thunderstorms that pounded the Midwest during the weekend.

In south-central Wisconsin, prison inmate crews helped fill sandbags Monday in Baraboo and Fall River, said Mike Goetzman, a spokesman for Wisconsin Emergency Management. Columbus officials used airboats to evacuate more than 100 people Monday from an apartment complex, condo building and several homes downstream from the Fall River Dam, mayor Nancy Osterhaus said.

Damage in Wisconsin's Vernon County will likely surpass the $60 million caused by floods last August, said Linda Nederlo, the public information officer at the Vernon County Emergency Operations Center.

Several dozen people were evacuated in southeast Minnesota as rivers flooded. In adjacent northeast Iowa, the Winnebago River crested at a record 18.7 feet late Sunday at Mason City. The surge burst a levee, shutting down the city's water treatment plant, and Mason City's nearly 30,000 residents were told not to drink the water.

The weekend death toll included six in Michigan, two in Indiana and one each in Iowa and Connecticut.

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