Return of Rain Storms Prompts Wisconsin Evacuations

Lightning killed a man in Madison, Wisc., and more evacuations were ordered in southwestern Wisconsin as rain continued to pelt the state Monday.

The latest round of storms moved through Wisconsin and into other Midwestern states as Federal Emergency Management Agency teams began their damage assessment in Wisconsin's southeastern counties.

President Bush declared five counties in southwestern Wisconsin disaster areas Sunday after floods last week left an estimated $47 million in damage and recovery costs. Four FEMA teams began assessing damage in three southeastern counties — Racine, Kenosha and Jefferson — Monday as part of the process for a disaster declaration there.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for Vernon County, one of the five declared disaster areas, Monday as 2 to 4 four inches of rain fell with more expected overnight. Landowners living below four dams there were urged to evacuate Monday afternoon.

To the east, a man died after being struck by lightening while playing golf at a city-owned course in Madison, police spokesman Mike Hanson said. The man was tentatively identified as 75 years old, he said.

It was the second deadly incident involving lightning in Madison in one week. Three people boarding a city bus Wednesday were electrocuted when lightning struck a utility pole and dropped a live wire into standing water.

A FEMA team assessing flood damage in Racine County stopped at the home of Jeremy Knopow, 30, of Burlington. He took off work Monday to try to make headway on his flooded basement.

Knopow doesn't live on a flood plain. His home sits on high ground about one-third of a mile from the White River. The water table rose 5 feet in his neighborhood Thursday night, and 6 inches of water remained in his basement Monday.

Carpet, cut up furniture and other water-logged belongings Knopow pulled from his basement sat in the driveway of the home he and his wife bought two and a half years ago.

"We've been very diligent about when we moved here, that if we didn't need the furniture or clothes, putting them down in the basement," he said. "Of course, all of that's now ruined."

His homeowner's insurance won't cover his belongings or the estimated $10,000 in structural damage to his home, he said. He was waiting to see what federal aid would be available.

"If homeowner's doesn't cover it, and that doesn't cover it, we're just screwed," Knopow said.

FEMA agent Gary Erickson said the state could issue a disaster declaration for the area by the end of the week. That would come before a federal declaration, which would free up grants, low-interest loans and other help for victims, he said.

Erickson toured flood damaged parts of Minnesota last week and was part of the team that canvassed Vernon County. The teams in southeastern Wisconsin had just started their work, but the western part of the state appeared to have been hardest hit, he said.

The morning rain had stopped in southwestern Wisconsin by early afternoon, offering a brief respite, said Linda Nederlo, a spokeswoman for Vernon County Emergency Management. "The sun was out for a little bit."

But with more storms expected overnight Monday, about 80 people living below the earthen Runge Hallow, Hidden Valley, Yettri-Primmer and Seas Branch dams were told to evacuate beginning at 4 p.m., Nederlo said.

A week ago, the same dams filled when torrential rains of up to 12 inches caused flooding. All the dams held, but overflow at the Hidden Valley dam caused some erosion.

Also in the southwestern part of the state, the National Weather Service issued urban and stream flooding advisories for Grant, Crawford and Richland counties, Meteorologist Jeff Boyne said. In Crawford County, some streets flooded in Prairie du Chien, and Gays Mills, one of the hardest hit by last week's floods, got more than 2 inches of rain, he said.

Three inches in Wauzeka in Crawford County caused mostly basement flooding to about 25 homes, Wisconsin Emergency Management said. At least four homes had water reach the first floor.

In Grant County's village of Bagley, a handful of homes flooded Monday — about five weeks after they were flooded by a July rain storm, Wisconsin Emergency Management reported.

Further north, a storm with strong winds roared through parts of Vilas and Oneida counties, knocking out electricity to nearly 10,000 customers in Eagle River, Minocqua, St. Germain and Three Lakes, according to Wisconsin Public Service.

To the south, four lakes in Dane County — Yahara, Waubesa, Monona, and Mendota — were so full that boaters were banned from making waves 500 feet from the shore as a way to prevent erosion, Sheriff David Mahoney said.

The state Department of Natural Resources said saturated ground forced the closure of the Sugar River State Trail in Green County, the Badger State Trail in Dane and Green counties, bike and horse trails at Governor Dodge State Park in Iowa County and horse trails at Wildcat Mountain State park in Vernon County.

The canoe landing on the Kickapoo River at Wildcat Mountain State Park is under water and closed, the agency said.

Midwest Mayhem

As Wisconsin braced for round two of the severe weather that has been battering the Midwest, North Dakota and Michigan surveyed the damage wrought by tornadoes that whipped through those states over the weekend.

In Northwood, N.D., one person was killed and at least 17 injured when a twister destroyed a 19-unit trailer court, uprooted trees and damaged homes and businesses, including a nursing home and grain elevator, officials and witnesses said.

"This town is a mess. This town is a disaster," said Kevin Dean, a spokesman for an emergency operations center that responders set up in the city fire hall. "There's virtually nothing ... that hasn't been damaged."

Some streets were impassable because of debris and power lines brought down by the storm, which hit the city just before 9 p.m. Sunday.

Dean said Monday that electricity had been cut off to the entire city as a precaution, although some buildings, including the Northwood Deaconess Health Center's hospital and nursing home, were getting power from generators.

On the city's north side, a gas station service bay that was spared by the storm was set up as a place to treat the injured.

Two neighboring trailer parks on Northwood's north side, which had 19 units in all, were demolished.

To me, it doesn't look like there's anything salvageable," said Rick McDonald, the owner of the trailer parks. "There's a new double-wide that is just gone."

Dean said Monday that one man in his mid-50s was killed in the storm. His identity was not given. At least 17 people were injured, and most of the injuries were minor, he said.

Monday classes at the Northwood school were canceled. Superintendent Kevin Coles said school windows were broken, and the roof of the school's gymnasium and its common areas were damaged.

Dean said emergency personnel made three sweeps through the community to make sure no one was trapped in the wreckage. Northwood, a Grand Forks County community of about 950 people, is almost 30 miles southwest of Grand Forks.

A tornado watch had been issued for much of eastern and south central North Dakota for most of the night, and areas around Petersburg and McVille reported hail. Heavy rain was reported in Kidder and Logan counties, leading to a small street flood advisory.In Michigan, the National Weather Service confirmed tornado touchdowns in six areas Friday along an 80-mile line stretching east-northeast from Eaton County, just south of Lansing, to near Hadley in Lapeer County.

Across the area hit by the storms, dozens of homes, barns, businesses and public buildings were damaged. No serious injuries were reported.

One of the more highly populated areas hit by the tornadoes was Fenton. A tornado that began in Livingston County's Cohoctah Township struck the southern Genesee County community as it moved along a 26-mile path, damaging at least 250 homes and businesses, the weather service said.

"Fenton sustained the greatest amount of damage where the tornado path widened to approximately one-quarter mile — including the snapping and uprooting of hundreds of trees," the weather service said in a statement.

Almost all Fenton residents whose houses were destroyed or damaged found shelter with relatives, Dick Beauchamp, damage assessment officer for the Genesee-Lapeer Chapter of the American Red Cross, said Sunday.

The tornado that touched down near Charlotte and ended near Potterville in Eaton County generated winds approaching 140 mph, making it Michigan's strongest tornado in 10 years, the weather service said.

Five people had minor injuries in Eaton County, where Sheriff Mike Raines said it was "miraculous" that there were no serious injuries.

"We had good warning," Raines said Sunday.

About 12 homes in the county were destroyed and seven others were heavily damaged. Authorities set up roadside checkpoints to make sure only residents were going into damaged areas as crews worked to clear debris, Raines said.

Disaster in Ohio

In Ohio, where power had been restored Monday to one million customers who lost service during a week of violent storms and record flooding, Gov. Ted Strickland was expecting the federal government to declare a major disaster in north-central Ohio.

Strickland toured the region with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials Sunday as residents removed piles of waterlogged carpet, couches and upended refrigerators from their homes and tried to clean up from the flooding.

"It's difficult to exaggerate or embellish upon what's happened here. It's absolutely devastating," Strickland said.

The governor said the federal declaration could come as early as Monday, providing financial aid to parts of Ohio inundated by the rain and flooding.

Bush last week signed disaster declarations for parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin after FEMA assessments there, clearing the way for residents to apply for assistance, such as grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans.

The weather has been blamed for 18 deaths across the upper Midwest.

Monday morning, scattered showers and thunderstorms still dogged the Upper Mississippi Valley, but Ohio and the rest of the hard hit Great Lakes region resumed their cleanup under clear skies.

In the West, meanwhile, the remnants of what was once Hurricane Dean soaked Southern California on Sunday afternoon, with up to three inches of rain falling on the deserts of southwest San Diego County.

Motorists were stranded in flooded washes alongside a road in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and lightning-struck power lines left 14,300 customers without power for almost five hours, a spokeswoman for San Diego Gas & Electric said. About 1,800 remained without power Sunday afternoon.