Tornadoes Sweep Across Nebraska, Kill 1

Rain-swollen rivers flooded regions throughout the Midwest on Monday even as residents assessed damage from pounding weekend storms, including tornadoes (search) that ravaged parts of Nebraska (search).

State police in tornado-flattened Hallam, Neb., began allowing residents and repair workers back into town -- only to order them out again Monday afternoon in anticipation of another storm.

Saturday storms in the area killed a 73-year-old Hallam woman, injured 37 others, destroyed 158 homes and damaged at least 57 others in Lancaster, Saline, Gage and Cass counties.

"It's just about a total loss," said Millie Schuster, whose possessions were reduced to an heirloom clock, the family Bible and a closet full of clothes.

Piles of corn and milo, a feed grain for livestock, covered the streets of Hallam, a village of 276 where earlier Monday the sounds of chain saws, electric generators and heavy equipment filled the air.

"I don't think there's a habitable structure -- maybe one house," said Chief Deputy Sheriff Bill Jarrett of Lancaster County.

Dick Hainje, regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flew over tornado-ravaged villages with Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns (search) and Sen. Chuck Hagel. Johanns has requested a presidential disaster declaration for 10 Nebraska counties.

Several more tornadoes were reported Monday southwest of Hallam in Nuckolls and Thayer counties, including one that cut a three-mile path and destroyed farm machinery, said Steve Carmel, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Hastings. Officials were still surveying the damage.

In the northern Illinois community of Gurnee, residents Monday battled the rising waters of the Des Plaines River in what threatened to become the town's worst flood in two decades.

The flood waters forced schools to close for more than 2,000 youngsters, and homes and businesses filled with water, including the Gurnee Community Church. Pumps belched water out a church window, a sign overhead reading, "We've got peace like a river."

"Spirits here are high. We're all helping each other out," said resident John Goodwin, 45.

The river in Gurnee is expected to crest early Wednesday at 12.7 feet -- 5.7 feet over flood level.

Further south in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, authorities were distributing sandbags and preparing fliers alerting residents of the rising water levels, said Dave Niemeyer, Des Plaines' city manager.

The river is expected to crest at 11.2 feet in Des Plaines early Thursday, a record-setting 6.2 feet over the flood stage, the National Weather Service said.

Flooding also was a problem in Iowa, where storms beginning Friday produced a string of 19 tornadoes, hail, high winds and heavy rains. As much as 9 inches fell over the weekend near Ames.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack asked for a federal disaster declaration covering 23 counties.

Near the overflowing Malone Creek in the eastern Iowa town of Independence, townspeople were cheered by news the river was receding -- even as they braced for more storms Monday night.

"The ground all around the county is saturated and just can't take any more water," said Ed Fitzgerald, spokesman for Buchanan County, Iowa, Emergency Management.

Several thousand Ohioans remained without power Monday following weekend thunderstorms, and more storms caused new outages. Several schools in central Ohio were closed because they lacked electricity.

More than 20 counties in southeastern and east-central sections of Lower Michigan were under flood warnings Monday. The storms that began Friday knocked out power to at least 510,000 Michigan homes and businesses, as many as 69,000 of which remained without power Monday evening.

In Rochester, N.Y., lightning ignited a natural gas line, shooting flames 20 feet into the air, and thousands of homes had no electricity after thunderstorms laid a trail of damage across upstate New York.