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Flash Floods Inundate Wisconsin Town, Homes Washed Away; Heat Roasts East

Flash floods inundated a southwest Wisconsin town for the second time in 10 months, while 60 miles away an embankment along a man-made lake gave way, unleashing a powerful current that ripped homes off their foundations.

The swollen Kickapoo River engulfed nearly the entire village of Gays Mills on Monday, forcing about 150 people to evacuate. The town was reduced to a grid of canals with cars submerged up to their windows and parking lots looking like lakes, just as it was last August.

Floodwater threatened dams across the Midwest, and military crews joined desperate sandbagging operations to hold back Indiana streams surging toward record levels. Stormy weekend weather was blamed for 10 deaths, most in the Midwest.

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While the Midwest struggled with flooding, the East was locked in a sauna. Heat advisories were posted Monday from the Carolinas to Connecticut, with temperatures topping 100 Fahrenheit from Georgia to Virginia. New York City recorded a high of 99 F.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday it would close a 250-mile stretch of the Mississippi River — from Fulton, Illinois, to Clarksville, Missouri — as soon as Thursday because of flooding, bringing barge traffic to a halt.

The closure could last up to two weeks, corps spokesman Ron Fournier said.

In Wisconsin, an embankment forming the side of the man-made Lake Delton failed, and the water poured out into the nearby Wisconsin River. The 245-acre lake nearly emptied, washing out part of a highway, sweeping away three homes and tearing apart two others.

"It's horrible. There's no way we could stop it," said Thomas Diehl, a Lake Delton village trustee. "The volume (of water) was just so great there wasn't anything anyone could do."

In Gays Mills, residents stood on the edge of their ruined town, so close to finally turning the corner before this latest flood.

"I can't believe this is happening again," said Liz Klekamp, 23, who said she grabbed her cat and fled Monday morning when water came pouring into her house. "It's really, truly sad."

When asked if this was the end of the town, Village President Larry McCarn just stared ahead. "It could be," he answered.

A couple thousand people in Columbia County about 30 miles north of Madison were urged to evacuate below the Wyocena and Pardeeville dams, said Pat Beghin, a spokesman for the county's emergency management.

A new storm system headed toward the Ohio Valley from the southern Plains on Monday, dumping 4 inches of rain on parts of Oklahoma, where authorities said wet roads contributed to the deaths of two motorists in separate accidents. Two inches of rain fell Monday on already waterlogged Indiana.

In western Ohio, at least one tornado was reported Monday and a train was blown off its tracks. No injuries were reported.

Some 200 Indiana National Guard members and 140 Marines and sailors joined local emergency agencies Monday in sandbagging a levee of the White River at Elnora, about 100 miles southwest of Indianapolis. The White River was forecast to crest Tuesday at nearby Newberry at 16 feet above flood stage.

By Monday morning, flooding at eight sites in central and southern Indiana had eclipsed levels set in the deluge of March 1913, which had been considered Indiana's greatest flood in modern times, said Scott Morlock, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Indiana.

President George W. Bush late Sunday declared a major disaster in 29 Indiana counties. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said nearly a third of his state's 99 counties need federal help. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle had declared 30 counties in a state of emergency.

Along the East Coast, people sweltered through the heat wave.

In the fifth inning of the Kansas City Royals-Yankees game in New York, fans cheered loudly when a cloud moved in front of the sun, then booed moments later when the sun returned.

New York City opened 300 cooling centers Monday, said Office of Emergency Management spokesman Chris Gilbride.

The weekend death toll included six in Michigan, two in Indiana and one each in Iowa and Connecticut.