Floods, Tornadoes Cause Havoc Across Upper Midwest

Rowing a boat isn't in Barbara Campagna's job description. Nevertheless, the architecture director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and three colleagues found themselves paddling to the Farnsworth House in Plano, built by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1951. There, they piled furniture into their borrowed rowboat as rising floodwaters threatened to invade in the aftermath of torrential storms.

"We've been calling it 'Lake Farnsworth' all day because (the house) is floating on the water," Campagna said late Friday of the glass-walled house, which rests on four-foot stilts. " ... Every piece is worth tens of thousands of dollars. They're all replaceable, but very expensive."

About 143,000 ComEd customers in northern Illinois remained without power Saturday, said ComEd spokeswoman Anne Prammaggiore. Power to more than half a million customers had been restored since Thursday's storm, but it could take days to restore power to all customers, she said.

Meanwhile, volunteers scrambled to sandbag low-lying areas, clear out uprooted and split trees and drain water from flooded basements.

The storms in Illinois could be responsible for two deaths, officials said. The wind blew over a tree, killing a man in Victoria in Knox County on Thursday, and a relative found a man lying unconscious in more than 2 feet of water in his basement in suburban Inverness, officials said.

The rain had mostly ended by Saturday, but flooding was still a danger for hundreds of thousands of people who live near swollen creeks and rivers.

"The heavier rainfall appears to be pushing further south," said Casey Sullivan, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "There's still a chance of rainfall, but we're not expecting as much and the potential for flash flooding is going away."

Rising water prompted authorities to increase the flood alert level for northern Lake County to red, the highest level. The Fox River was approaching 50-year levels, with flooding possible this weekend when water from rain-drenched Wisconsin arrives downstream.

Storms were forecast for Saturday in some parts of the northern Midwest, capping nearly a week of powerful storms that caused heavy flooding in some towns and has been blamed for at least 17 deaths.

Hundreds of Ottawa, Ohio, residents were waiting to return home Friday after water from the swollen Blanchard River surrounded about two-thirds of the town's homes, said Fire Chief Ron Brinkman.

Flooding stretched across an 80-mile path through Ohio this week, leading Gov. Ted Strickland to declare a state of emergency in nine Ohio counties.

Weekend rain could be enough to delay the floodwater's retreat, said Terry Click, a weather data specialist with the National Weather Service.

In Dyer, Ind., southeast of Chicago, authorities began evacuating St. Margaret Mercy Hospital as water from a creek behind the building began seeping in. About 70 patients were being moved to other hospitals, spokeswoman Maria Ramos said.

Authorities cut power to the hospital as a precaution, and police and firefighters went door to door in Dyer telling people to leave.

At least one tornado touched down Friday in Fenton, Mich., and as many as three to five tornadoes may have hit the southeast part of the state, the National Weather Service said.

Homes and businesses suffered major damage in Fenton, and minor injuries were reported, primarily from traffic accidents during the storm. Most of the city's 10,000 residents were without power.

The line of heavy thunderstorms that spawned the tornadoes also flooded several highways and downed power lines and trees in mid- and southeast Michigan.

More than 80,000 homes, mostly in Wayne and Oakland counties, were without power Friday night, according to DTE Energy Co.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator R. David Paulison surveyed damage Friday in Rushford, Minn., especially hard hit by this week's flooding. Mayor Les Ladewig said about half of Rushford's 760 homes were damaged, including 248 that were destroyed and 91 with serious damage.

About 1,500 homes were damaged around the state, and Paulison said FEMA recovery centers should be running early next week in the three counties where President Bush declared disasters Thursday.

Paulison also visited Wisconsin, where flooding destroyed 44 homes and damaged more than 1,400, most of them in the southwestern part of the state. FEMA agreed to begin evaluating the damage Saturday, three days earlier than planned, after an appeal from Gov. Jim Doyle.

"The people are really suffering," said Donna Gilson, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin Emergency Management. "We have to move this along as fast as possible."

In DeKalb, Ill., 50 miles west of Chicago, the Kishwaukee River reached near-record levels, spilling over its 15-foot levees, flooding neighborhoods and making bridges impassable.

About 600 residents of DeKalb and nearby Sycamore have been displaced, said DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki. Northern Illinois University's flooded DeKalb campus was closed.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared Cook, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties state disaster areas, a move that will help deliver state aid to those areas.

Some flooding occurred in the area around Prospect Heights, six miles north of O'Hare.

"The river is so quiet for so many years," said Mark Bednarowicz, a 57-year-old computer programmer whose home sits at the edge of the flooded area, as he filled sandbags. "For everybody it's a shock it (flooding) happens. ... Everybody's scared."