Storms plague Plains with rain, hail, twisters

Friday, July 11, 2003

DECATUR, Ind. -- Flood warnings stretched from parts of Iowa into West Virginia on Thursday, and more storms were expected across much of the region, but in one flooded community dotted with sandbagged homes, hope was finally spreading.

Eric Light stood on his porch, his foot resting on a pile of sandbags, and gazed at the floodwaters that had started receding from his house.

"I feel for those guys down there," Light said, pointing to the inundated homes of his neighbors. "I'm just relieved that it's going down."

About 1,000 homes across Indiana alone have been affected by flooding caused by storms that have drenched the region for the past week, according to Alden Taylor, a spokesman for the State Emergency Management Agency. More rain was falling in some parts of Indiana on Thursday, but the National Weather Service was forecasting a break by the weekend.

In western Ohio, heavy rain Thursday continued to push creeks and rivers over their banks, raising the number of people forced to leave their homes in Mercer County to 100. Hundreds of acres of low-lying areas were covered in water.

"We've got sandbags stockpiled, ready to go," said Karl Kaiser, county Emergency Management Agency director. "It all depends on what the rain is today. We are hoping it goes to Canada or something."

Residents also were evacuated Wednesday near Indian Lake along the Great Miami River. That area about 50 miles north of Dayton has been hit by more than 15 inches of rain since Friday.

In western West Virginia, almost 6,000 customers remained without power Thursday morning because of the storms.

At Decatur, about 15 miles southeast of Fort Wayne, the St. Marys River had dropped from a high of 26.9 feet on Tuesday morning to 26.5 feet by Thursday, Adams County Sheriff Chuck Padgett said.

The swift current still had power, though. Wednesday evening, as two teenagers clung to branches in the water after spilling out of their canoe, a rescue boat capsized, stranding two sheriff's deputies as well. A state police diver helped them into a boat with a tether line, and only minor injuries were reported.

"I thought I was going to die for a long time," Krystal Harms, 18, told The Decatur Daily Democrat. "The only part of my body above water was my head, and it went under a couple times."

The heaviest rain from the storms that stretched across the Midwest on Wednesday fell in southeastern Iowa town of Storm Lake, where 3.3 inches was recorded. Grapefruit-sized hail was reported in Sharon, Kan., and strong wind blew off a roof at Wichita Greyhound Park in Kansas, damaging at least 50 cars, and about 50 miles west in Kingman County, there were reports of five tornadoes touching down, the sheriff's department said.

Five tornadoes in were also reported in storms across southern Minnesota that damaged houses, flooded streets and tore down tree branches.


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