Storms still pounding Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Storms slammed rain-soaked Ohio on Saturday as hundreds of thousands of people in the Midwest were without power after their homes were battered by lashing winds and flooding rains.Tornado warnings were issued Saturday afternoon for parts of central and southeast Ohio. Downed trees and power lines were reported in the southern part of the state, said National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Hatzos.Flooding this week spread across an 80-mile swath through the northwest and north central parts of the state. Gov. Ted Strickland toured some of the damaged areas Saturday.”What I’ve tried to do and what we’ve all tried to do is let these folks know … that we are working to get assistance to them as rapidly as possible,” Strickland said.Powerful storms rolling through the Upper Midwest during most of the past week caused disastrous floods from southeastern Minnesota to Ohio that were blamed for at least 18 deaths.In southern Michigan, the skies were clearing Saturday but more than 100,000 customers were without power, utilities said. The National Weather Service confirmed multiple tornadoes touched down Friday in a 12-mile area in Livingston, Genesee and Oakland counties.Damage in Fenton was extensive, Mayor Sue Osborn said Saturday. “I have seen houses that have trees go right through them,” she said. Only residents were being allowed into the city, she said.Matt McClanahan’s Cohoctah Township home was among at least 17 destroyed by a twister.”I’ve seen devastation and I’ve helped clean up, but I’ve never seen it be me,” he said. “I bought a bottle of Jim Beam and it’s in the house. I could really use a sip of that right now.”About 120,000 ComEd customers in northern Illinois remained without power Saturday, ComEd spokesman Joe Trost said. Power to more than half a million customers had been restored since Thursday’s storm, but it could take days to restore power to all customers, officials said.The storms in Illinois were responsible for at least one death, a man struck by a wind-toppled tree, officials said. In addition, an autopsy was planned on a man found lying in more than 2 feet of water in his basement in suburban Inverness, officials said.Rain had most stopped falling Saturday in northern Illinois as a line of storms moved eastward and southward, but flooding was still a danger for hundreds of thousands of people who live near swollen creeks and rivers.”There’s still a chance of rainfall, but we’re not expecting as much and the potential for flash flooding is going away,” said Casey Sullivan, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator R. David Paulison surveyed damage Friday in Rushford, Minn., which was especially hard hit by this week’s flooding. Mayor Les Ladewig said about half of Rushford’s 760 homes were damaged, including 248 that were destroyed and 91 with serious damage.About 1,500 homes were damaged around Minnesota. Paulison said FEMA recovery centers should be running early next week in the three counties where President Bush declared disasters Thursday.Paulison also visited Wisconsin, where flooding destroyed 44 homes and damaged more than 1,400, most of them in the southwestern part of the state.—Associated Press writers Dan Strumpf in Chicago; John Seewer in Ottawa, Ohio; Joshua Freed in Rushford, Minn.; Mike Wilson in Des Moines, Iowa; Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis.; Jim Irwin in Detroit; and Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.