Boats used to help residents amid Midwest flooding
Elkhart, Ind. — Crews used boats to help residents evacuate their homes in northern Indiana after rainstorms sweeping across the Midwest on Wednesday combined with melting snow to flood rivers, roads and other low-lying areas in several states.
The storm system started pushing heavy rain, snow and ice into the region this week. The weather has already been blamed for hundreds of car crashes and several fatalities, including a crash that killed four people along a slippery interstate in Nebraska.
About 19 people had been evacuated from homes in Elkhart, where emergency crews used boats and an armored vehicle to respond, Mayor Tim Neese said early Wednesday. Schools were closed in the northern Indiana city because of the flooding, and an emergency shelter was set up, The Elkhart Truth newspaper reported.
“This city has not seen flooding like this in the last 45 years,” Neese said. “We also had record snowfall in addition to consistent rain.”
In Elkhart and nearby Goshen, local officials declared a state of emergency and asked that traffic be limited to first responders and emergency personnel. Homes and streets also were flooded in the South Bend area, and forecasters predicted that the swollen St. Joseph River wouldn’t crest until Thursday.
Evacuations grew elsewhere across the Midwest after heavy rains and snowmelt sent rivers and streams out of their banks.
In Illinois, authorities issued an evacuation order Wednesday for residents in the city of Marseilles who live near the Illinois River. The fear of rising water along the river forced the evacuation late Tuesday of the LaSalle County Nursing Home in Ottawa. Two days of rain in southern Wisconsin swelled waterways, leading to a handful of high-water rescues for people stranded in their vehicles.
The National Weather Service said up to 8 inches of rain have fallen in parts of northern Indiana since Monday.
The weather service has issued flood warnings for parts of several other states in the central and southern U.S., spanning from Texas to Illinois and Ohio to Arkansas. Winter weather advisories also were issued, including in Oklahoma and Kansas.
More than a dozen students were rescued after their school bus drove off the road and got stuck in floodwaters in Arkansas, where strong winds toppled power lines and damaged buildings. A school bus was pushed off a county road near Lafayette, Indiana, by the wake of a passing vehicle. No students were injured in either accident.
A 52-year-old woman from Bourbonnais, Illinois, was found dead Tuesday in a submerged car in Peotone, south of Chicago. The woman apparently lost control of her vehicle and ended up in a rain-filled ditch, said Peotone Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Bruce Boyle.
In eastern Nebraska, speed and slippery pavement caused a crash between a pickup truck and a semitrailer along Interstate 80 on Tuesday that killed four people from Colorado, police said. The Kansas Highway Patrol said a 38-year-old woman died and two other people were injured in a collision on an icy highway late Monday.
In Minnesota, state police said winter weather contributed to 400 crashes and 250 spinouts, including two fatal accidents.
The storm system stretched to Texas, where weather service officials said three tornadoes hit. One struck early Tuesday in a rural area near Joshua, destroying at least two mobile homes and severely damaging several others. A mother and her disabled daughter were injured when one twister demolished their mobile home.