Video: Floods plague central Plains states

updated 5/8/2007 8:46:52 AM ET 2007-05-08T12:46:52

Flooding forced hundreds of people from their homes early Monday and blocked streets and highways following a weekend of violent thunderstorms across the central Plains.

But the storm-ravaged Midwest got a break around midday on Monday. Tim Welch, an official with the Office of Emergency Management in Shawnee county, Kan., reported that flood levels in Topeka were starting to drop. Floodwaters crested six inches  less than first predicted and were heading downward, Welch told NBC News.

A small amount of rain is expected in Topeka but it is not expected to add to any flooding.

Welch said the worst of the flash flooding in the Topeka area was over. No more evacuations were being planned, though residents who have been evacuated will stay at shelters overnight, where pets are now being accepted, he said.

490 rescues
Earlier, Kim Moore, her two sons and their dogs had to be evacuated from their central Topeka home after water rose knee-deep in their street.

“The rescuers brought rafts up to the houses,” Moore said. “My car’s flooded in right now.”

Shawnee County emergency officials reported 490 water rescues from homes and vehicles by 8 a.m. Monday.

High water also blocked roads and chased people from their homes Monday in parts of Nebraska and Iowa.

In southwest Iowa, emergency officials urged nearly 1,600 residents of Red Oak and all of tiny Coburg to evacuate because of the rising East Nishnabotna River and a creek. An estimated 5 inches of fell during the weekend at Red Oak and light rain continued Monday. Flood stage there is 18 feet but the river had already hit 25.7 feet, said Adam Wainwright, emergency management coordinator for Montgomery County.

Wainwright said some homes had been flooded, but he did not immediately know how many. No injuries were reported.

The Iowa State Patrol closed a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 29 north of the Missouri state line because of flooding, and traffic was detoured around a 30-mile stretch of I-29 in west-central Iowa.

More than 6 inches of rain fell in 24 hours in southeast Nebraska, and flooding closed a number of roads in the area Monday.

Roads washed away
Several county roads were washed away, said Keya Paya County, Neb., Sheriff Jeremiah Harmon. Weekend tornadoes in the area destroyed one house and damaged others, Harmon said.

Topeka had measured 6.73 inches of rain since Sunday morning, and more rain was expected, the National Weather Service said.

Topeka resident Jennifer Bowen was awakened early Monday by rescue workers knocking on the door of her home near Shunganunga creek. Fire and police officers evacuated her and her daughter, Selma, by boat.

Although Bowen has no flood insurance, she said she felt relatively lucky, compared to the plight of residents of Greensburg, the town about 200 miles to the southwest that was obliterated by a tornado.

“I felt fortunate that we still have a house,” Bowen said.

At the Army’s Fort Riley, west of Topeka, traffic was being rerouted around the base’s western gates because an empty coal train derailed on a trestle that collapsed because of high water Sunday.

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