Storm cleanup begins in soggy Midwest
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio residents removed piles of waterlogged carpet, couches and upended refrigerators from their homes Sunday as they began the cleanup from recent flooding that Gov. Ted Strickland called “devastating.”Strickland and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials surveyed damage in the heavily flooded northwest Ohio village of Ottawa, where he walked through the muddy streets.”It’s difficult to exaggerate or embellish upon what’s happened here. It’s absolutely devastating,” Strickland said in a telephone interview.The governor wants the federal government to declare a major disaster in the parts of north-central Ohio inundated by the past week’s powerful storms and record floods that were blamed for at least 18 deaths in the Midwest.Meanwhile, the remnants of what was once Hurricane Dean soaked Southern California on Sunday afternoon, with as much as three inches of rain falling on the deserts of southwest San Diego County.Motorists were stranded in flooded washes alongside a road in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and lightning-struck power lines left 14,300 customers without power for almost five hours, a spokeswoman for San Diego Gas & Electric said. About 1,800 remained without power Sunday afternoon.In southern Michigan, utility crews had restored power to all but 26,000 of 427,000 homes and businesses left without power two days earlier.The National Weather Service confirmed that tornadoes touched down in six areas Friday along an 80-mile line in the state, destroying at least 250 homes and businesses in Fenton.”Fenton sustained the greatest amount of damage where the tornado path widened to approximately one-quarter mile – including the snapping and uprooting of hundreds of trees,” the weather service said in a statement.Emergency shelters shut down Sunday because almost all Fenton residents whose houses were destroyed or damaged apparently found shelter with relatives, said Dick Beauchamp, damage assessment officer for the Genesee-Lapeer Chapter of the American Red Cross.”Last night there was nobody in the shelter. Everybody apparently had someplace to go,” Beauchamp said. “Pretty much everybody is insured so I doubt we’ll have any client casework to do.”President Bush on Sunday issued a disaster declaration Sunday in five southwestern Wisconsin counties after a Federal Emergency Management Agency assessment a day earlier.The disaster declaration means residents can apply for assistance, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.Strickland said a similar declaration in Ohio could come late Sunday or early Monday.—Associated Press writer Jim Irwin in Detroit contributed to this report.