Ike remnants blamed for Midwest deaths, blackouts

Monday, September 15th 2008, 10:20 am
By: News 9


Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO (AP) -- Residents of the Midwest faced blackouts affecting more than a million homes and businesses, closed schools and streets clogged by fallen trees Monday after a weekend of devastating weather caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ike.

The violent weather in the Midwest brought Ike's total death toll to at least 31 in eight states, from the Gulf Coast to the Ohio Valley.

As Ike faded and headed off toward the northeast, it dumped as much as 6 to 8 inches of rain in parts of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, spawned a tornado in Arkansas that damaged several buildings, and delivered hurricane-force wind to Ohio, temporarily shutting down Cincinnati's main airport during the weekend. Missouri had widespread flooding, and high water on the Mississippi River was expected to close a riverfront street later this week in front of St. Louis' famed Gateway Arch.

"We've got flash flooding all over the place," National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs said of Missouri.

"We've never had flooding like this," said Tom DeGiulio, town manager in Munster, Ind. About 40 Indiana National Guard troops were activated Sunday to assist with the evacuation of up to 5,000 residents there.

Evacuees who spent the night in a shelter set up at a school in Munster said Monday that the water rose quickly.

"The water was nothing but a trickle in the middle of the street and by the time we decided what to do it was too late," said George Polvich, one of the Munster residents rescued by boat. "There was, like, three feet of water."

The record rainfall also threatened farmers' harvests.

About 1 million households and businesses had no electricity Monday morning in Ohio alone, and authorities said it could take a week for power to be restored in some areas.

In New York, more than 60,000 people from Buffalo to Albany were without power Monday after high wind during the night. Gusts of more than 50 mph bought down power lines and tree limbs and dozens of schools in central New York announced closures or delays.

Roughly 575,000 Duke Energy customers in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky plus 539,000 American Electric customers in Ohio were still without power Monday, according to the companies' Web sites.

It was the biggest outage in the company's history, said Duke Energy spokeswoman Kathy Meinke.

"This is an unprecedented event for this time of year," AEP spokesman Jeff Rennie said. "We've never seen anything like this in early fall."

Illinois officials said they planned to ask Gov. Rod Blagojevich to issue a disaster declaration for the city of Chicago and surrounding Cook County. The county was placed under a state of emergency as thigh-high water prompted dozens of boat rescues.

Elsewhere across Illinois, small armies of volunteers sandbagged the banks of the overflowing DuPage and Des Plaines Rivers. In Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, truckloads of sand were delivered to help with makeshift barriers to hold back water spilling from the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Also in Illinois, the weekend's record rainfall and flooding were threatening corn and soybean yields. University of Illinois agricultural economist Stu Ellis said the heavy rain could provide the right environment for fungus to spread in soybean fields and further weaken corn crops, already fragile from the summer's drought.

A busy stretch of Interstate 80/94 just east of the Indiana-Illinois state line was closed by flooding Monday morning and electricity was out for more than 100,000 homes and business in a large swath of southern Indiana.

Six people died in the flooding and high wind in Indiana, the state's Department of Homeland Security said Monday. Among them were a teacher and his father who were sucked into a culvert and drowned Sunday while trying to rescue a 10-year-old boy from a flooded ditch, state officials said.

Three people died in Missouri, including a 21-year-old woman who was likely swept away by rising water while trying to help another man, authorities said.

The wind was blamed for three deaths in Ohio, a falling tree killed two people in Tennessee, and another falling tree killed one man in Arkansas.


Associated Press reporters Tom Coyne in Indiana and Meghan Barr in Ohio contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)