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Record flooding leaves deadly mark across Midwest

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Missouri governor seeks federal disaster declaration for 70 counties
  • 13 deaths have been linked to the weather; three people are missing
  • Searchers in Missouri found the body of teen reported swept into a creek
  • Five people died in a highway wreck in heavy rain in Kentucky, police said
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PIEDMONT, Missouri (AP) -- Residents of low-lying towns stacked sandbags or grabbed belongings and evacuated Wednesday as a foot of rain pushed rivers over their banks in the nation's midsection. At least 13 deaths had been linked to the weather, and three people were missing.


Floodwaters flow through a mill building in Ozark, Missouri, on Wednesday.

Record or near-record flood crests were forecast in several towns in Missouri. Flooding was reported in large areas of Arkansas and parts of southern Illinois, southern Indiana and southwestern Ohio.

"We've got water rising everywhere," said Jeff Korb, president of the Vanderbugh County, Indiana, commissioners.

The National Weather Service posted flood and flash flood warnings from Texas to Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

After two days, rain had finally stopped Wednesday afternoon in much of Missouri and Arkansas. The weather system crawled toward the Northeast, drenching the Ohio Valley and spreading snow over parts of northern New England. A parallel band of locally heavy rain stretched from Alabama and Georgia to the mid-Atlantic states.

Atlanta, Georgia, police closed some downtown streets when stormy weather knocked down more glass and debris from buildings damaged by Friday's tornado.

In Ohio and other areas, the rain fell on ground already saturated from heavy snowfall less than two weeks ago. Video Watch Ohioans brace for floods »

A foot of rain had fallen in sections of southern Illinois and at Mountain Home, Arkansas, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri; 6.2 inches fell at Evansville, Indiana, the weather service said.

Five deaths were linked to the flooding in Missouri, five people were killed in a highway wreck in heavy rain in Kentucky, and a 65-year-old Ohio woman appeared to have drowned while checking on a sump pump in her home. In southern Illinois, two bodies were found hours after floodwaters swept a pickup truck off a rural road.

Searches were under way in Texas for a teenager washed down a drainage pipe, and two people were missing in Arkansas after their vehicles were swept away by rushing water.

Searchers in Missouri found the body of Mark G. Speir Jr., 19, on Wednesday about 2 miles downstream from where he was reported swept into a creek the previous evening.

"He was going down the creek screaming and hollering," Lawrence County emergency management chief Mike Rowe said.

An estimated 300 houses and businesses were flooded in Piedmont, a town of 2,000 residents on McKenzie Creek. Dozens of people were rescued by boat.

Outside St. Louis, Missouri, the Meramec River was threatening towns including Eureka and Valley Park, where Chandra Webster's kids ran bags of toys and clothes to the car while she moved boxes of belongings to the second floor and her husband moved furniture out of harm's way.

"It's a lot of work, but it's worth it to save your stuff," Webster, 34, said Wednesday. "In '82, we lost everything when I was a little girl. I don't want to put my kids through that."

The Meramec River hit a record 39.7 feet that year; flood stage is only 16 feet. A levee completed just three years ago is designed to hold floodwaters of 43 feet, three feet above the crest forecast for later this week. Video Watch school bus trapped by floodwaters »

Valley Park Alderman Steve Drake helped fill sandbags with other volunteers.

"We've got everybody working together," Drake said. "It's going to be interesting."

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt said he was seeking a federal disaster declaration for 70 of the state's 114 counties and the city of St. Louis.

The James River was approaching record levels of more than 33 feet above normal at the small Ozarks hilltop town of Galena, west of Branson, flooding a commercial strip and homes near the town, Stone County emergency management chief Tom Martin said.

Widespread flooding in Arkansas had washed out some highways and led to evacuations, said Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. The Highway and Transportation Department reported state roads blocked in 16 counties.

Some residents of southern Illinois had to evacuate. In Marion, firefighters used their own fishing boats to rescue 13 residents of the city's housing authority.

In Findlay, Ohio, authorities closed streets after the Blanchard River once again surpassed the 11-foot flood level -- the 10th time it has done so in the past 15 months.

Key roads were closed in the Cincinnati area, and water 4 feet deep was reported in the suburb of Sharonville, police said.


Ohio rescue workers were busy helping people out of cars swamped by the flooding.

"The biggest problem has been people driving into floodwater," a rescuer said. "There are a lot of stupid people. When that sign says 'Road closed, high water,' that's what it means." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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