FARGO, N.D. – Flooding from heavy rain and snowmelt around the Red River threatened homes and washed out roadways, killing a woman who stumbled into a water-filled ditch, officials said Friday.
The rain was part of a line of thunderstorms and tornadoes that tore up homes, knocked down power lines and injured several people as it moved across the Midwest a day earlier.
The severe weather continued across central Indiana Friday night, spawning tornadoes blamed for damaging several homes and businesses. No serious injuries were immediately reported.
"These storms were also prolific hail producers. We've had reports of golfball-sized hail," said John Ogren, a weather service meteorologist in Indianapolis.
The storm tore a wall from a home in suburban Indianapolis, exposing a second-floor bedroom and a bathroom. Charlie Mascheck said his family had to dash to safety.
"All of a sudden we just heard that sound that everybody tells you about," he said. "Realized we were right in the middle of it and everybody ran to the middle of the stairwell and got on top of each other and rode it out. It only lasted maybe a few seconds."
The storm damaged several warehouses and outbuildings in the area, and downed trees and utility poles caused power outages, police said.
In North Dakota, the rising Red River brought back memories of high water in 1997 that swamped Grand Forks, and caused heavy damage throughout the valley bordering North Dakota and Minnesota.
The weather service predicted major flooding for the Grand Forks area, saying the river could rise to about 47 feet by next Friday. Flood stage in Grand Forks is 28 feet, but residents are protected by a huge dike project begun after the 1997 disaster.
City spokesman Kevin Dean said the dike system is about 85 percent complete, adding that many vulnerable properties have been acquired since the earlier flood.
Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness estimated the latest river crest projection, at 37 feet next week, would threaten about 30 homes — compared with about 130 under the same conditions in 1997. Flood stage in Fargo is 18 feet.
A 57-year-old woman was found face down in a water-filled ditch along Interstate 29 in Grand Forks County early Friday. She apparently fell into the water after attempting to walk home when her vehicle got stuck on the flooded road, Sheriff's Major Mike Fonder said.
"We suspect drowning," he said. An autopsy was planned.
North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued emergency declarations to help the region prepare for flooding.