Image: Flooded Findlay
JD Pooley  /  AP
Floodwater covers Main Street in Findlay, Ohio, on Tuesday. A mix of melting snow and heavy rain led to flooding across Ohio.
updated 3/1/2011 11:09:09 AM ET 2011-03-01T16:09:09

Residents of this flood-prone Ohio city brightened as the waters crested Tuesday, a day after wicked storms lashed the eastern half of the nation with heavy rain and tornadoes, killing at least four people.

A woman's body was pulled from her car Tuesday morning after it sank in a swollen tributary of the Huron River in Norwalk, Ohio. In Tennessee, three people were killed when high winds and rain wreaked havoc across the state Monday, uprooting trees and flooding roads.

In Findlay, the Blanchard River topped out at less than 5 1/2 feet above flood level, city safety director Jim Barker said. That's about a foot lower than during a catastrophic flood four years ago that caused millions of dollars in damage.

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The high water was mostly downtown and in a few residential neighborhoods in Findlay, 45 miles south of Toledo. The main street was under 3 feet of water Tuesday morning.

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

The flooding divided Findlay in half, forcing Tuesday morning commuters to take long and slow detours to get around the water.

A 4-foot wall of an estimated 1,000 sandbags kept floodwaters out of Hensley's downtown pizza shop. During the record flood in 2007, water got into the building and damaged the oven, Hensley said.

"The sad thing is we just got rid of the sandbags that we had kept from the last flood," he said, adding that new sandbags were trucked in Monday. He got in to work at 6 a.m. Tuesday through a back door that was still accessible and said the shop would be open and delivering pizzas.

A mix of melting snow and heavy rain threatened flooding in all 88 of Ohio's counties, the National Weather Service said. Flooding 4 feet deep destroyed a building at Cleveland's zoo and killed a peregrine falcon.

Findlay's residents know all too well what to do when faced with the threat of high waters.

Warren Krout lost just about everything inside his pawn shop when floodwaters swamped his store nearly four years ago. With the river rising again, he had help this time.

University of Findlay football players lugged mattresses, an air hockey table and reclining chairs to the second floor of Krout's store. "Stack it as tight as you possibly can," he told the young men.

What they couldn't carry was put up on concrete blocks or left to chance.

"Some of this stuff is just going to have to go down the river," Krout said Monday.

Hancock County emergency director Garry Valentine said 13 people were rescued from their homes and taken to an emergency shelter Monday night.

"We anticipate a flood every time it rains," Krout said.

Crews in boats rescued nearly 30 people, including a group trapped in a mobile home park in western Ohio, said Mike Robbins, Mercer County's emergency management director.

Image: A tree lies in the wreckage of house in Red Bank, Tenn.
John Rawlston  /  AP
A downed tree lies in the wreckage of this house in Red Bank, Tenn., on Monday.

In Tennessee, officials in White House, north of Nashville, told WSMV-TV that a public works employee died when he was washed into a drain pipe after pulling debris out of it to unclog it.

A 79-year-old man died in Franklin County, in the southern part of the state, when his mobile home was knocked off its foundation and he was pinned underneath. A woman was hurt and taken to a hospital.

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"I don't know if it was a tornado or straight line wind, but whatever it was beat us up pretty good," Franklin County Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Guess said.

In Knoxville, heavy rain fell Monday morning and afternoon, flooding streets, basements and backyards. A man driving a truck was killed when he hit a tractor-trailer on a highway near Murfreesboro; authorities blamed wet roads.

Six people were treated at a hospital in Maryville, Ill., where storms tore off part of the roof at a church.

In New York, flooding from an ice-jammed creek forced about 200 people from their homes in a western New York hamlet where the waterway flows into Lake Erie.

Residents evacuated Monday as the Cattaraugus Creek flooded Sunset Bay, a cluster of seasonal and year-round homes in the town of Hanover, southwest of Buffalo.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: March roars in like a lion with deadly tornadoes

  1. Closed captioning of: March roars in like a lion with deadly tornadoes

    >> bad wild weather that spawned tornados in the midwest and south. mike seidel is in tennessee this morning. he's got the latest this morning. mike, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt. it was the second tornado outbreak in less than a week. nine twisters touched down, five confirmed. one was an ef-2 which ripped through southern tennessee where i'm standing and led to the first tornado fatality of the year. deadly tornadoes and a line of severe thunderstorms produced wind damage in 14 states monday. the storms also dumped heavy rain across the area. here in franklin county , tennessee , a grandfather was killed when he was pinned under a trailer.

    >> it sounded like a ton of gravel hit the side of my house. man, i thought the world had come to an end. to be honest with you, i did.

    >> reporter: at least five mobile homes were demolished here. in indiana, a tornado with at least 120 miles per hour winds took out two more homes. everything came down and everything was gone.

    >> reporter: another tornado destroyed three homes in kentucky's henry county early monday. greg williams and his wife survived by hiding under their bed.

    >> next thing i knew, it felt like we were outside. i started shaking. she said, are you cold? i said, yeah. i didn't want to tell her i was scared to death.

    >> reporter: farther north in pennsylvania and ohio heavy rain combined withal melting snow to cause flooding. we have been lucky so far. 20% fewer tornadoes than average so far this year because all the cold weather put a lid on thunderstorm formation. but we are expecting severe weather this week as we head into the peak of the tornado season which is march, april and may.

Explainer: Spring flood forecast

  • NOAA

    "A large swath of the North Central United States is at risk of moderate to major flooding this spring," the National Weather Service said in its latest forecast on Feb. 24. Below are the scenarios by region.

  • North Central U.S.: above average

    Image: Ice backs up on Mississippi River
    Emily M Rasinski  /  St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP
    Ice backs up on the Mississippi River around the Clark Bridge in Alton, Ill., north of St. Louis, on Jan. 24.

    Heavy late summer and autumn precipitation (twice the normal amount since October in parts of North Dakota and Minnesota) have left soils saturated and streams running high before the winter freeze-up. NWS models show this year’s snowpack contains a water content ranked among the highest of the last 60 years.

    The combination put a large portion of the North Central United States at risk of moderate to major flooding this spring, extending from northeastern Montana through western Wisconsin and along the Mississippi River south to St. Louis.

    Information provided by NOAA on February 17, 2011, indicated Fargo, N.D., has a near 95 percent chance of exceeding major flood stage of 30 feet. At a stage of 30 feet, portions of downtown Fargo begin flooding and temporary dike construction is necessary. Approximately a 20 percent chance exists of reaching or exceeding the 40.8 foot record set in 2009. Grand Forks, N.D., has about a 95 percent chance of exceeding major flood stage of 46 feet. There is approximately a 40 percent chance of Devils Lake, N.D., exceeding 1,455 feet, which could partially inundate portions of the town of Minnewauken, including critical infrastructure and roads across the lake, emergency service routes and possibly a small section of the Amtrak train line.

    There is potential for moderate to major flooding on the Milk River and its tributaries in northeastern Montana. The Milk River near Glasgow Montana has about a 90 percent chance of exceeding the major flood stage of 27 feet. Some minor ice jam flooding is already occurring in Montana; additional flooding resulting from ice jams is likely throughout the late winter and early spring.

    The James River at Huron, S.D., has about a 90 percent chance of exceeding major flood stage of 15 feet and a 30 percent chance of exceeding the record 21.2 foot level set in 1997. The Big Sioux River at Brookings, S.D., has a greater than 95 percent chance of exceeding major flood stage of 12 feet and about a 30 percent chance of exceeding the 14.77-foot record set in 1969.

    The Mississippi River is likely to see major flooding from its headwaters near St. Paul, Minnesota, downstream to St. Louis. St. Paul, MN., has about a 95 percent chance of exceeding major flood stage of 17 feet, where secondary flood walls are deployed to protect the St. Paul Airport. Further downstream, the risk of major flooding on the Mississippi (Iowa, Illinois and Missouri borders) will persist into the spring. Much of that region’s snowpack typically accumulates later in the winter. The quantity of spring rains and late-season snow will determine the magnitude of flooding in the Middle Mississippi Valley.

  • Northeast: above average

    Image: Frozen Hudson River
    Mike Groll  /  AP
    The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse is frozen in ice on the Hudson River and in front of the Catskill Mountains in Hudson, N.Y., on Jan. 14.

    There is a small area of above average flood risk in portions of the Northeast, primarily across Southern New England and the Catskills Mountains in N.Y. state. As a result of October and November rain storms, these regions had above normal soil moisture levels prior to the winter freeze, followed by above average snowfall, and river icing in many locations.

    If snowpack and river icing conditions were to persist beyond mid-March, this area could have an elevated risk of spring flooding during the melt period, especially if heavy rains fall during the melt.

  • Southern plains: below average

    Image: Dry area of Texas
    Eric Gay  /  AP
    An irrigation system is used to bring water to a dry field near Hondo, Texas on Dec. 15.

    Fall and winter precipitation over Texas and New Mexico was significantly below average, ranging from 20 to 75 percent of normal from October 2010 to mid-February 2011. Portions of the Pecos River and the Rio Grande basins received as little as 10 percent of normal rainfall. Soil Moisture Analysis by the Climate Prediction Center show drier than normal soils from the surface to as deep as 2 meters.

    This deficit will minimize the amount of water that can be converted to river flows during any rainstorm. Current stream flow conditions as measured by the US Geological Survey range from near average too much below average for stations across this region.

  • Mid-Atlantic, Southeast: below average

    Image: Dry Georgia farm
    David Goldman  /  AP
    Farmer Aries Haygood shows how dry the top layer of soil is on his freshly planted onion farm in Lyons, Ga., on Dec. 10.

    Fall and winter precipitation over the Mid Atlantic and Southeast ranged from 50 to 75 percent of average for this period. Isolated portions of South and North Carolina only received between 25 and 50 percent of normal precipitation. Therefore, soil moisture is well below normal across most of the Southeastern US and the Mid-Atlantic.

    Deficits in the precipitation and soil moisture water contents translate into below average stream flow conditions for much of the region and a below average flood risk for the spring.

  • West: no forecast yet

    Image: Snow in Sierras
    Scott Sady  /  AP
    A utility worker restores service to homes around Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Dec. 20 after a storm that dumped up to 10 feet of snow in places.

    Late February is too early to determine spring flooding potential across the Western U.S. Much of the snowfall which determines spring runoff in the mountain west accumulates during the remainder of the winter and spring.

    Snowpack remains above and much above average in many regions. However, extreme high temperature can lead to elevated melt rates at any time during spring. There is still ample time left in the accumulation period for the spring flood potential to change.

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