Midwest copes with floods as East sizzles

Homes ripped off foundations in Wisconsin

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Ryan J. Foley
Associated Press / June 10, 2008

LAKE DELTON, Wis. - An embankment along a man-made lake gave way under severe flooding yesterday, unleashing a powerful current and ripping several homes off their foundations and down the Wisconsin River.

Flood water threatened dams across the Midwest, and military crews joined desperate sandbagging operations to hold back Indiana streams surging toward record levels. Stormy weekend weather was blamed for 10 deaths, most in the Midwest.

While the Midwest struggled with flooding, the East was locked in a sauna. Heat advisories were posted yesterday from the Carolinas to Connecticut, with temperatures topping 100 from Georgia to Virginia. New York City recorded a high of 99.

The US Army Corps of Engineers said yesterday that it would close a 250-mile stretch of the Mississippi River - from Fulton, Ill., to Clarksville, Mo. - as soon as Thursday because of flooding, bringing barge traffic to a halt.

The closure could last up to two weeks, corps spokesman Ron Fournier said.

In Wisconsin, an embankment forming the side of the man-made Lake Delton failed, and the water poured out into the nearby Wisconsin River. The 245-acre lake nearly emptied, washing out part of a highway, sweeping away three homes, and tearing apart two others.

"It's horrible. There's no way we could stop it," said Thomas Diehl, a Lake Delton village trustee. "The breach is between 300 and 400 feet wide. The volume [of water] was just so great there wasn't anything anyone could do."

Don Kubenik, 68, burst into tears yesterday after seeing the $500,000, 2,800-square-foot home he built in 2003 snapped into pieces. The businessman from suburban Milwaukee said he spent every weekend in Lake Delton.

"That house had everything you can imagine and now it's all gone," Kubenik said. "My boat's gone. The pier's gone. Everything is gone."

A couple thousand people in Columbia County about 30 miles north of Madison were urged to evacuate below the Wyocena and Pardeeville dams, said Pat Beghin, a spokesman for the county's emergency management.

The Wyocena Dam's spillway had washed out, and workers were sandbagging to try to save it, Beghin said.

The Pardeeville dam also was overflowing, he said.

A new storm system was headed toward the Ohio Valley from the southern Plains yesterday - 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 yesterday.

The weather service posted a tornado warning for south-central Illinois and a severe thunderstorm warning for Indiana.

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

By yesterday 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 US Geological Survey in Indiana.

President Bush late Sunday declared a major disaster in 29 Indiana counties. Governor Chet Culver of Iowa said nearly a third of his state's 99 counties need federal help. Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin had declared 30 counties in a state of emergency.

The Danville River Dam in Danville overtopped yesterday, and more than 100 people were evacuated from an apartment complex, condo building, and several homes with airboats, Mayor Nancy Osterhaus said.

In Ontario, Wis., the Kickapoo River left waist-high water on the village's baseball diamond Sunday and backed up sewers, forcing water up through manhole covers.

Bill Hagerman, 53, vacuumed mud out of his business, Precision Physical Therapy, where sewer water about a 1.5 feet deep had coated his weight machines and patient table with muck.

"I got hit hard," he said. "Yesterday afternoon, it seemed to rain all afternoon, hard. It just seemed like forever."

Along the East Coast, people sweltered through the heat wave.

New York City opened 300 cooling centers yesterday, said Office of Emergency Management spokesman Chris Gilbride. District of Columbia officials declared yesterday and today Code Red days for poor air quality, and schools in parts of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland closed early as classrooms heated up.

In New Jersey, a fire at an electrical switching station in West Orange knocked out power to about 75,000 customers of Public Service Electric & Gas for hours yesterday.

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

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