Bloated Midwestern rivers that have driven almost 4,000 people from their homes surged up to 10 feet above flood stage yesterday, while bulldozers shored up leaking sandbag dikes and officials asked Washington for help.
At least seven people have drowned in northern Indiana, Ohio, and southern Michigan where rain and a spring-like thaw following a snowy winter have caused the worst flooding in places since a torrent in March, 1913, killed 732 people.
The governors of Indiana and Ohio issued emergency declarations for several counties after aerial tours of the flooded regions on Sunday.
"It's getting to the point where people are getting scared," said Les Heyman, an assistant fire chief in Grand Rapids, Ohio, a community of 1,100 where the Maumee River poured water up to 7 1/2 deep through the streets in its run from Fort Wayne to Lake Erie.
Fort Wayne, Ind., was under a state of emergency as the water reached 9 1/2 feet above flood stage and continued to climb in the city of 170,000 in the northeast corner of the state, where the St. Joseph and St. Mary's rivers join to form the Maumee.
Mayor Winfield Moses Jr., who sent a telegram to President Reagan yesterday asking for federal aid, noted that an inch or more rain was forecast. "If we get that rain, we'll ask two members of each species to line up at the city park and we'll build an ark," he said.
In southeast Kansas, a tornado killed two people in Tyro, and in Ada, Okla., one man was killed when a twister pushed through a trailer park. Tornadoes or possible tornadoes also were reported in more than a dozen communities in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.