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Rain drenches Wisconsin, forcing evacuations

Another round of thunderstorms brought more rain and a flash-flood warning to an already deluged southwestern Wisconsin on Monday, forcing residents below four dams to evacuate.
Volunteer Schroeder cleans up after banks of Blanchard River crested at seven feet above flood level in Ottawa
Volunteer Jackie Schroeder cleans up Friday after the Blanchard River flooded last week in Ottawa, Ohio.Matt Sullivan / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Another round of thunderstorms brought more rain and a flash-flood warning to an already deluged southwestern Wisconsin on Monday, forcing residents below four dams to evacuate.

Strong wind knocked out power to parts of Vilas and Oneida counties, and the National Weather Service briefly issued a flash flood warning for Vernon County as up to 3.5 inches of rain drenched the area.

Elsewhere, cleanup and recovery were under way in parts of the Great Lakes region hit hard by last week’s storms. President Bush declared north-central Ohio a disaster area, clearing the way for residents of the heavily flooded region to apply for grants for temporary housing and home repairs.

Storms and flooding were blamed for at least 18 deaths across the upper Midwest.

In Wisconsin, Bush had declared Vernon and four other counties federal disaster areas after last week’s flooding forced people out of their homes.

With more storms expected Tuesday, about 80 people living below the earthen Runge Hallow, Hidden Valley, Yettri-Primmer and Seas Branch dams were told to evacuate beginning at 4 p.m., said Linda Nederlo, a spokeswoman for Vernon County Emergency Management.

A week ago, the same dams filled when torrential rains of up to 12 inches caused flooding. All the dams held, but overflow at the Hidden Valley dam caused some erosion.

Lightning causes deaths
As the storms rolled east on Monday, Francis Adams, 75, was struck and killed by lightning as he sought shelter from the rain under a pine on a golf course in Madison, authorities said.

It was the second deadly incident involving lightning in Madison in one week. Three people boarding a city bus Wednesday were electrocuted when lightning struck a utility pole and dropped a live wire into standing water.

On Monday, Federal Emergency Management Agency teams also were assessing the damage caused by last week’s storms.

Jeremy Knopow, 30, of Burlington, was waiting to see what federal aid would be available to cover his belongings or the estimated $10,000 in structural damage to his home.

“If homeowner’s doesn’t cover it, and that doesn’t cover it, we’re just screwed,” Knopow said.

In Ohio, floodwaters have receded in the heavily flooded village of Ottawa and surrounding area, officials said. About 1,000 homes in the county were affected by the high waters, and disaster estimates are expected to rise as residents continue to pump out their flooded basements.

'It's absolutely devastating'
Strickland toured the region with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials Sunday as residents removed piles of waterlogged carpet, couches and upended refrigerators from their homes and tried to clean up from the flooding.

“It’s difficult to exaggerate or embellish upon what’s happened here. It’s absolutely devastating,” Strickland said.

A volunteer at St. Peter and Paul Catholic School peeks in on the progress on the clean up of one of the flooded classrooms at the school on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007, in Ottawa, Ohio. Parents, students and members of the community began removing damaged items, disinfecting and cleaning.Andrea Morales / LIMA NEWS

The electricity was back on for most of the more than 1 million customers who lost power from storms across the Midwest in the past week.

In Illinois, 2,250 ComEd customers were still without power Monday morning, down from more than 630,000, and in southern Michigan utility crews had restored power to all but about 4,800 of 427,000 homes and businesses that lost service two days earlier. About 10,000 were still without power in Wisconsin.

The weather service confirmed that tornadoes touched down in six areas of Michigan along an 80-mile line Friday, destroying at least 250 homes and businesses in the town of Fenton. The tornado’s path there widened to about one-quarter mile, the weather service said.

Another tornado struck the small town of Northwood, N.D., about 30 miles southwest of Grand Forks, on Sunday, destroying two small mobile home parks and damaging much of the rest of the town. One man was killed.