LOUISVILLE, Ky. – High winds, heavy rain and tornadoes pounded parts of the Midwest and the South, leaving at least eight people dead, stranding people in cars, forcing others from their homes and leaving thousands without power.
The death toll in Kentucky on Saturday reached seven, including a father and his 1-year-old daughter in a truck that skidded into floodwaters. In Arkansas, a woman whose boat was struck by lightning died and authorities were searching for two missing people.
Officials urged people to stay off the roads as forecasters warned of more stormy weather to come.
"We have a lot of people driving past the high water signs and they are getting stuck," Kentucky State Police dispatcher John Reynolds said. "We are telling people if they can avoid going out, they ought to."
The National Weather Service reported that areas of Kentucky received at least 5 inches of rain, with isolated regions getting close to 10 inches. Over 24 hours, sections of Vanderburgh County, Indiana, received 4-6 inches, and parts of northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri received more than 10 inches of rain, the weather service reported.
Flooding forced more than 100 people to flee an apartment complex for shelter at a nearby high school, officials said. Portions of Interstate 64 just east of Louisville were closed in both directions due to standing water. Meanwhile, the storms left thousands of Kentuckians without power.
Maggie DiPietro, 58, said she woke up shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday and found about 2 inches of water in her home.
"By the time the police came and rescued me, it was almost up to my calves," she said.
The rain dampened a music and arts festival in central Kentucky as waters rose to at least six feet in some areas, forcing the evacuation of about 200 people and covering about 30 vehicles at the farmstead just north of Harrodsburg in Mercer County.
The American Red Cross and six county emergency agencies used boats and school buses Saturday afternoon to transport attendees at the Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival to a shelter at Lion's Park in Harrodsburg, said Ruthann Phillips of the Red Cross.
"It was almost Katrina-like pretty much," said Chester Craig, a lieutenant with the Mercer Central Volunteer Fire Department. "There were vehicles underwater and people were walking around in a daze."
In central and eastern Missouri, hundreds were without homes or power a day after a storm churned up about 10 tornadoes and drenched some parts of the state with as much as a foot of rain. Nearly 400 structures were damaged or destroyed and at least 10 people were injured, said Susie Stonner, a state emergency management spokeswoman.
In Arkansas, four northern counties declared emergencies Saturday after severe flooding. Two people were believed missing in Sharp County, hardest hit by the storms, although the sheriff's office would not confirm the number or provide further details about the daylong search.
Emily Taylor, a state emergency management spokeswoman, said a tornado touched down five miles outside Ash Flat, damaging 12 homes and destroying two others. Two people were taken to a hospital for minor injuries.
In northwest Tennessee, about 300 people returned home Saturday after they were evacuated Friday night from a trailer park in Obion County when water from a nearby creek began to overflow, said Jeremy Heidt, a spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. No tornado touchdowns, major damage or injuries were reported, he said.
In Evansville, Ind., Vanderburgh County emergency management director Sherman Greer said his agency had given away about 550 sandbags in 90 minutes Saturday, many of them to residents of Evansville's southeast side who were dealing with flooding for the second time in two weeks.
"These people are going through round two right now," Greer said. "Just about the time they got their carpet dried out ... they're going through it again."