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U.S. Weather

Flooding, Tornadoes Wreak Havoc on Midwest

  • Ohio Flooding

    March 1: Floodwater covers Main Street in Findlay, Ohio. (AP)

  • Kentucky Tornadoes

    Feb. 28: Gregg Williams looks through belongings from his Eminence, Ky., home that was destroyed in a storm. (AP)

FINDLAY, Ohio -- Jarrod Steffan loaded his kayak with fans and shuttled them across his flooded street Tuesday to begin drying out his house. It was a drill he knew all too well.

Floodwaters slowly began to recede after soaking several hundred homes, the third major flood to swamp this northwest Ohio city in the past four years.

"You can't do anything but rebuild and go on," he said.

The floods were part of the aftermath of storms that swept through the Midwest and South spawned flooding and tornadoes over the past two days, killing at least five people, including four in Tennessee.

A mix of melting snow and heavy rain threatened flooding in all 88 of Ohio's counties, the National Weather Service said. The worst, though, was in Findlay, where the Blanchard River topped out at less than 5 1/2 feet above flood level Tuesday morning.

That was about a foot lower than during a catastrophic flood four years ago that caused millions of dollars in damage -- but it was still enough to leave a mess.

Mail carrier Jim Gangle carried tools and plastic bins from his garage into his driveway so he could clean out the muck. "If that's all that happens, it's easy to take care of," he said.

Preventing future flooding has become a top priority for this city of about 36,000 people 45 miles south of Toledo, but government studies estimate it will take several years and cost well over $100 million to build of a series of flood walls, earthen levees and channels to divert water.

Most folks had enough warning this time to move their belongings to higher ground.

Steffan, whose home had 5 inches of water on the ground floor, had moved his clothes, couches, mattresses and appliances to his father's house. He lost all those items four years ago in what was the city's worst flood.

"It's sad; everybody's used to this," he said.

Barry Simmons, a loan officer, slept on air mattress at his downtown mortgage office that was surrounded by sandbags. It stayed dry, but the basement was nearly full of water that came within a few inches of the floorboards.

"We had only three loads of sandbags," he said. "Had it got much worse, we could have had problems."

The high water was mostly downtown and in a few residential neighborhoods. The main street was under 3 feet of water Tuesday morning.

Firefighters in Norwalk, about 55 miles to the northeast, recovered the body Tuesday of a woman whose car sank in rising floodwaters.

The woman, 51-year-old Lisa Roswell, had called 911 on Monday as water rose inside her blue Volkswagen Beetle convertible. "Help me!" she cried as raging water pulled her car into the Huron River.

The car was submerged in about 12 feet of water, said Norwalk Fire Captain Don Helton.

Four people died in Tennessee. Officials in White House, north of Nashville, said a public works employee died when he was washed into a drain pipe after pulling debris out of it to unclog it. Water began rushing into the pipe, and carried the worker into it.

Another man was killed in the southern part of the state when a storm knocked his mobile home off its foundation and he was pinned underneath.

In Findlay, flooding divided the city in half, forcing commuters to take long and slow detours to get around the water.

"This doesn't even shock you anymore," said Casey Hensley, manager of a downtown Domino's Pizza store. "It makes you mad, but it doesn't shock you."

A 4-foot wall of an estimated 1,000 sandbags kept floodwaters out of the pizza shop and helped it stay open. "The sad thing is we just got rid of the sandbags that we had kept from the last flood," he said.

Larry Walters moved his mother-in-law out of her house when the water came up just after midnight Tuesday.

He spent the morning setting up pumps and stringing together plastic tubing to get the water out.

"Most of us know what to do," he said. "You just get tired of it."