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Midwest copes with floods, East warned of heat

DETROIT (AP) Temperatures rose toward the triple digits along the East Coast on Monday as Midwesterners braced for more rain that could add to days of deadly floods.

Eight deaths were blamed on stormy weekend weather, most in the Midwest. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle declared an emergency for 29 counties and President Bush late Sunday declared a major disaster in 29 Indiana counties. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said nearly a third of his state’s 99 counties need federal help.

Flooding was expected to be a continuing problem this week in the Midwest as rivers are swollen with the runoff from heavy weekend rainfall, topped by the 11 inches that fell Saturday in Indiana.

“This thing came on fast with such a radical deluge of water that people were describing going from a feeling of security to waist-deep water in a matter or 15 or 20 minutes,” said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

A new storm system was headed toward the Ohio Valley from the southern Plains on Monday Oklahoma utilities reported nearly 5,000 customers blacked out and the National Weather Service said as much as 3 inches of rain could fall on already waterlogged Indiana late Monday.

While the Midwest fought to cope with flooding, the East was locked in a steam bath. Heat advisories were posted Monday from the Carolinas to Connecticut, with temperatures expected to hit 100 from Georgia to New York, the National Weather Service said.

“It’s just crazy. … It’s really, really hot,” said New York City street worker Jessica Pena as she swept a midtown Manhattan street at around 8:15 a.m. The temperature already was in the upper 80s.

About 17,000 customers in and around New York City were blacked out by thunderstorms that struck late Sunday and the rising demand for electricity Monday to run air conditioners, utilities said. A subway system power outage disrupted some morning rush hour service.

New York City opened 300 cooling centers Monday, said Office of Emergency Management spokesman Chris Gilbride. District of Columbia officials declared Monday and Tuesday Code Red days for poor air quality, and dozens of Connecticut schools closed early because they lack air conditioning.

Intense thunderstorms pounded the Midwest on Sunday, hitting Michigan with wind up to 80 mph and more than 5 inches of rain that knocked out electrical service to more than 515,000 homes and businesses, about half of whom were still blacked out Monday. Flood warnings were posted Monday for much of western Lower Michigan, the weather service said.

Indiana officials urged about 1,500 people to leave the towns of Elnora and Plainville, about 100 miles southwest of Indianapolis, because of flooding along the White River. In Morgan County, southwest of Indianapolis, about 150 residents were taken out of a flooded nursing home, and officials moved more than 250 patients and employees from Columbus Regional Hospital in southern Indiana.

In western Wisconsin, about 250 people were evacuated in nine counties, said Mike Goetzman, a spokesman for Wisconsin Emergency Management. Prison inmate crews helped fill sandbags Monday in Baraboo and Fall River in south-central Wisconsin, he said, and Vernon County authorities said more than 100 roads in Vernon County were closed Monday.

Officials warned that Wisconsin’s Kickapoo River could crest 6 feet over flood stage sometime Monday, but some small towns had already become isolated islands.

“It ain’t normal,” said Monte Sheldon, 47. The weekend rain washed out part of his yard outside Viroqua, Wis., depositing his trees across a highway.

Rushing water in southeastern Minnesota washed out some roads and recently planted crops, and officials urged residents of the Winnebago Valley to evacuate. More than 60 people were taken to a shelter in Caledonia from a campground.

Downstream, the Winnebago River rose to a record 18.7 feet late Sunday at Mason City, Iowa. The surge burst a levee, shutting down the city’s water treatment plant, and Mason City’s nearly 30,000 residents were told not to drink the water or flush toilets. Mason City got more than 5 inches of rain Sunday, a record for the date.

The weekend death toll included six in Michigan, two of them newspaper deliverers for The Grand Rapids Press who drowned Sunday when rushing water washed out a road beneath their car. Indiana listed one dead and one man missing, and lightning killed one person in Connecticut.


Associated Press writers Todd Richmond in Gays Mills, Wis., Tom Murphy in Indianapolis, and Ula Ilnytzky in New York City contributed to this report.