Midwest flooding death toll reaches 22
By Todd Richmond
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press
GAYS MILLS, Wis. — Water-weary residents across the Midwest began counting their losses Tuesday as damage estimates from this weekend's deadly flash floods climbed into the tens of millions. The rain moved into Ohio, where roads flooded, schools canceled classes and residents were rescued from flooded homes by boats.
The death toll from the two storm systems - one in the Upper Midwest and the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin in Texas and Oklahoma - climbed to 22 when searchers found the body of a man tangled in a tree about four miles from his wrecked, upside-down car near a creek south of Lewiston, Minn.
Most of Gays Mills, a village of 640 people in southwestern Wisconsin, had been under water Sunday night. About half of the village was accessible Tuesday, and the growl of sump pumps filled the air as residents made their way back in.
"It's heart-wrenching, man," said Deb Holtz, 48, who found the furniture shop she runs with her husband in Gay Mills coated with mud. "Makes me want to cry."
In the Ohio village of Carey, waist-deep water swirled through the tiny downtown, submerging cars to their rooftops. Dozens of flooded streets made it impossible to cross the town. The Carey Nursing & Rehabilitation Center was evacuated, with 28 residents transferred to a local hospital.
Firefighters used boats to rescue families from flooded homes in Bucyrus after nearly 9 inches of rain fell, and the Upper Sandusky school district in north-central Ohio canceled the first day of school.
In Wisconsin and Minnesota, thousands of homes were damaged: A preliminary survey by the American Red Cross in Minnesota identified about 4,200 affected homes, including 256 complete losses, 338 with major damage and 475 that are still inaccessible, said Kris Eide, the state's director of homeland security and emergency management.
About 100 flood victims met with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in a sometimes contentious meeting Monday during which he cautioned against expecting miracles, especially because many flood victims don't have insurance.
"I think it sucks," Jeff Strain, of Stockton, said Tuesday, standing beside muddied boxes of Christmas decorations, a bike and other household goods piled on his driveway. "We need to know what's going to go on so we can start making plans. ... As far as government, I haven't heard anything."
Preliminary damage reports in Wisconsin topped $38 million Tuesday and were expected to keep rising. Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency in five counties and began the process for requesting federal disaster assistance.
Jennifer Schlegel, 39, stood outside what was left of the Gays Mills home she shared with her husband, daughter, son and mother. Her backyard was still a brown lake. Her deck was gone, ripped away by the current, and every room of the house was coated with mud.
Schlegel said she didn't get flood insurance because she had full home coverage and the mortgage was paid.
"You're thinking it's not going to happen," said Schlegel, her jeans and T-shirt streaked with mud. "It's just up at night, wondering what I'm going to do with the family."
In Oklahoma, which recorded a gust of 82 mph and rainfall of 11 inches, about 300 homes and businesses were damaged in the Kingfisher area and in Caddo County in southwestern Oklahoma, officials said.
Numerous flood warnings remained in effect through Wednesday and Thursday, and Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency in 24 counties.
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