ST. PAUL – The search continued Friday for two sewer workers who were feared dead after getting caught the day before by a surge of water in the city's underground sewer system.
Acting Deputy Fire Chief Mark Mueller said crews were in two boats on the Mississippi River near the outlet of the sewer pipe. The crews re-entered the sewer pipe at midmorning Friday for another search.
It was the third search of the pipe since the two men disappeared Thursday afternoon. They were among a crew of men who were working in the pipe about 150 feet below ground when they were told to evacuate. Five made it out safely.
Among about a dozen people on the riverbank Friday watching the search boats was Robert Kasper, the business agent from the Laborers Union Local 132, which represents the missing men.
"It's sad," he said. "I mean, they could be anywhere."
Kasper said Lametti and Sons Inc., the Hugo-based contractor the men worked, for a had a good reputation for safety. "It was a fluke thing," he said.
Arnold Kraft, a spokesman for Lametti and Sons, told reporters Thursday night the workers were told to get out shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday as a line of thunderstorms approached.
Two men were lifted out in a bucket by a crane. The rest moved to another exit point with a staircase. With the water waist-high, the men climbed the stairs. When the reached the surface, they realized two men were missing, Kraft said.
He said they immediately went back into the tunnel, where the water rapidly receding, and searched all the way to where the sewer enters the Mississippi but weren't able to find the men.
The St. Paul Fire Department was notified at 7:17 p.m. and firefighters searched into the night. "The storm came up pretty fast, and these guys are pretty far down," Mueller said.
According the National Weather Service, nearly a half-inch of rain fell in St. Paul in about 30 minutes.
The company has been working on the St. Paul sewer system since February.
In neighboring Minneapolis, 16 children and adults were pitched into the water when five sailboats capsized on two city lakes. Authorities said the boaters got to shore safely.
High winds and hail damaged crops, trees, homes and vehicles in the Twin Cities area, authorities said.
In Texas on Thursday, flooding prompted Gov. Rick Perry's office to place response teams on alert in some parts of the state. Heavy rain was expected in Texas through the weekend.
The forecast storm line stretches from Laredo north to the Dallas area and Perry said the state would provide assistance to those areas as local officials indicate they need help.
Near Phoenix, bystanders pulled four young people from a pickup that flipped into a desert wash flooded with runoff from a strong but isolated desert thunderstorm.
Television images show the pickup driving down a roadway in Avondale, Ariz., Thursday afternoon, hitting floodwaters surging across the road, sliding sideways and flipping into the wash. The occupants appeared uninjured after bystanders from the nearby Phoenix International Raceway helped rescue them.