At Least 13 Die in Midwest Flooding

Orange County, Indiana is under a state of emergency after receiving up to seven inches of rain in a 36-hour period. Major flooding is expected over the next few days for many southern Indiana rivers in the area. Video by AP
By Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 20, 2008

CHICAGO, March 19 -- Flooding across the central part of the country over the past three days has killed at least 13 people and forced thousands to evacuate. And the worst may be yet to come as rivers approach record levels in the next few days.

Rain has fallen continuously in the Midwest since Monday, dumping more than a foot of water in some regions. National Weather Service flood warnings and advisories cover much of Ohio, Indiana, northern Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, eastern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas.

In Kentucky, a weather-related traffic accident killed five people Wednesday. In Texas, a teenager was swept down a drainage pipe Tuesday. In Arkansas, at least three vehicles were swept away by water Wednesday. In Missouri, a state Transportation Department worker was killed Tuesday by a tractor-trailer while setting up flood barriers, three people perished with vehicles caught in rushing water, and a teenager was found dead in the water.

More than 500 homes were evacuated in Missouri, where Gov. Matt Blunt (R) mobilized the National Guard and all state agencies. He asked the federal government to declare 70 counties and the city of St. Louis disaster areas.

"Since yesterday, we've had a steady stream of rescues both from cars and people who for whatever reason think they can get in the water with boats and then the boats capsize," State Highway Patrol Lt. John Hotz said Wednesday. "The areas of concern are moving towards the eastern part of the state as the rain continues. There are places where it will get worse."

The Meramec River in St. Louis County is expected to crest at 10 to 15 feet above flood stage by Friday.

"There's not a huge amount of water right now, but the worst will hit late Friday night," said police spokeswoman Tracy Panus. "We're setting up emergency shelters."

Isolated tourist towns in the Ozarks have been hit especially hard by the deluge. The James River approached record levels at more than 33 feet above average in Stone County, Ark.

"Some of the houses by the river are already underwater. So is JoJo's Catfish Wharf and Jack's Resort boat dock," said Tina Thomas, an administrator in the judge's office in Mountain View, Ark., a tourist enclave along the White River. "And the river hasn't crested yet either."

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