Flash floods inundate Wis. town for 2nd time

Tuesday, June 10th 2008, 6:39 am
By: News 9


Associated Press Writer

GAYS MILLS, Wis. (AP) -- For nearly a year, this tiny southwestern Wisconsin village has struggled to survive after a devastating flood. New rising waters may have sealed its fate.

Flash floods inundated the town of 625 over the weekend, just 10 months after residents worked to rebuild their homes and businesses.

The swollen Kickapoo River spilled over its banks again and engulfed nearly the entire town Monday morning, forcing about 150 people to evacuate. By evening, the village was reduced to a grid of canals with cars submerged up to their windows and parking lots looking like lakes, just as it was in August.

The scenario played out across the Midwest on Monday. While some towns cleaned up from drenching weekend storms blamed for 10 deaths nationwide, most in the Midwest, others like Gays Mills got hammered again.

The East Coast, meanwhile, was gripped by a heat wave. Heat watches and advisories were in effect Tuesday from North Carolina to Massachusetts, where forecasters said the thermometer could top out near 100 degrees. New York City recorded a high of 99 on Monday.

Across the Midwest, officials on Tuesday were to start tallying the damage from the flooding.

An engineer assessment team from the Wisconsin National Guard was headed to Lake Delton to determine what equipment would be needed to begin repairs after an embankment along the man-made lake gave way, unleashing a powerful current that ripped homes off their foundations.

The 245-acre lake emptied into the nearby Wisconsin River on Monday, washing out part of a highway, sweeping away three homes and tearing apart two others.

Don Kubenik, 68, burst into tears after seeing the 2,800-square foot home he built in 2003 snapped into pieces. The businessman from the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis said he spent every weekend there.

"That house had everything you can imagine and now it's all gone," said Kubenik, who was in West Allis when the lake overflowed. "My boat's gone. The pier's gone. Everything is gone."

Other residents said they feared a large chunk of the local economy was gone, too, after vacationers learn that boating and fishing won't be possible anytime soon. The 20 resorts that line the lake were already reporting Monday that customers were canceling their reservations.

In Gays Mills, residents stood on the edge of their ruined town, so close to finally turning the corner before this latest flood.

"I can't believe this is happening again," said Liz Klekamp, 23, who said she grabbed her cat and fled Monday morning when water came pouring into her house. "It's really, truly sad."

When asked if this was the end of the town, Village President Larry McCarn just stared ahead. "It could be," he answered.

In waterlogged Indiana, military crews joined desperate sandbagging operations Monday to hold back streams surging toward record levels, and rushing water breached dams and washed out portions of highways.

State officials said they could not give a dollar estimate on the damage or the number of homes and businesses destroyed by flooding caused by up to 11 inches of rain on Saturday. Two more inches fell Monday.

Some 200 Indiana National Guard members and 140 Marines from North Carolina helped local emergency agencies sandbag a levee of the White River at Elnora, about 100 miles southwest of Indianapolis. The White River was forecast to crest Tuesday at nearby Newberry at 16 feet above flood stage.

By Monday morning, flooding at eight sites in central and southern Indiana had eclipsed levels set in the deluge of March 1913, which had been considered Indiana's greatest flood in modern times, said Scott Morlock, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Indiana.

Late Sunday, President Bush 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. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle had declared 30 counties in a state of emergency.

Along the East Coast, people sweltered through the heat wave.

In the fifth inning of the Kansas City Royals-Yankees game in New York on Monday, fans cheered loudly when a cloud moved in front of the sun, then booed moments later when the sun returned.

"We came to New York and the whole week is hotter than in Florida," Patti Yost, 47, of Spring Hill, Fla., said at Yankee Stadium.

New York City opened 300 cooling centers Monday, said Office of Emergency Management spokesman Chris Gilbride. Schools in parts of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland closed early as classrooms heated up.

The weekend death toll included six in Michigan, two in Indiana and one each in Iowa and Connecticut. Authorities said wet roads contributed to the deaths of two motorists in separate accidents Monday in Oklahoma, where more than 4 inches of rain fell.


Associated Press Writer Ryan J. Foley in Lake Delton, Wis., and Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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