Snowstorm grounds flights, snarls traffic
Hundreds of motorists stranded in traffic pileup near Madison, Wisconsin
The Associated Press, Feb. 7, 2008
MILWAUKEE - Hundreds of motorists were stranded in a massive traffic pileup on Thursday and classes were canceled for thousands of students as the Midwest dug out from a major snowstorm.
Meanwhile, residents in the Great Lakes nervously eyed rising rivers and braced for flooding.
In Wisconsin, traffic backed up for 19 miles south of Madison on Wednesday after semitrailer trucks got stuck on a hill. Gov. Jim Doyle later called a state of emergency, sending National Guard troops to help vehicles stuck in the jam blocking Interstate 90. Snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles were used to check on the stranded motorists and bring them food or fuel.
As many as 800 vehicles remained stranded Thursday morning, according to Wisconsin National Guard Lt. Col. Tim Donovan.
"In some cases, the drivers seemed to have given up and gone to sleep," said Donovan, who assessed the backup from a helicopter.
More than 200 public school districts and private schools in southeastern, central and western Michigan canceled Thursday's classes, as did many community colleges. Dozens of schools in northern and eastern New York were closed or delayed the start of classes because of icy conditions.
General Mitchell International Airport at Milwaukee stopped all flights Wednesday afternoon due to whiteout conditions. More than 100 people spent the night in the concourses, airport spokesman Ryan McAdams. Air traffic resumed at 7 a.m. Thursday, although McAdams said delays were expected.
Lines at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport were long Thursday morning, a day after carriers canceled about 1,000 flights. Eighty flights were canceled Thursday morning, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation. About 100 passengers spent the night on cots.
No delays were reported across town at Chicago's Midway International Airport.
"Things are much improved from yesterday morning," Pride said.
Flood warnings were issued in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New York after three days of heavy rain and melting snow. People in northwest Ohio moved to higher ground as forecasters predicted that floodwaters would continue to rise in an area still recovering from flooding five months ago.
Town fears flooding
Rising waters from the Blanchard River in Findlay, Ohio, were another blow to residents and business owners just getting their lives back to normal after flooding in August displaced hundreds and caused millions of dollars in damage.
"We had the place completely gutted," music store owner Scott Adams said as he loaded equipment into a trailer to try to keep it dry. "I don't see fixing the place again."
The river was expected to crest before 9 a.m. at 5.5 feet above flood stage, the level at which the river began flowing over its banks, city Safety Director Jim Barker said Thursday morning.
The flooding wasn't expected to be as bad as August's the city's worst since 1913 but firefighters evacuated a handful of residents.
Water started spilling into downtown Wednesday afternoon, forcing the city's main thoroughfare to close where several storefronts remain empty from the last flood. Within a few hours, the entire street was covered by water, and at least 100 homes had suffered some water damage, Barker said.
In northwestern Indiana's Newton County, divers spotted at least one body in a vehicle submerged underwater in a quarry. The car may have plunged into the icy water overnight, Indiana Conservation officers said. A diver was unable to open the car doors, and the recovery effort was postponed until water could be pumped out, they said.
In upstate New York, freezing rain and snow contributed to a pileup that killed one person and sent another to a hospital, authorities said. In Wisconsin, two traffic fatalities were blamed on the storm.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Rising rivers in Indiana, Ohio
Water in one town is expected to be 4 feet above flood stage by tonight
The Associated Press. Feb. 6, 2008
TOLEDO, Ohio - The threat of worsened flooding stretched across Ohio Wednesday, where two days of rain and melting snow left water covering busy roads and pushed rain-swollen rivers and creeks past their breaking points.
That followed flooding Tuesday in two northern Indiana counties, where residents evacuated homes along the Tippecanoe River for the second time in less than a month.
In northwest Ohio, city leaders in Findlay hoped to avoid another major flood just months after the city was swamped by historic flooding.
The Blanchard River, which runs through the city, was rising about 5 inches an hour during heavy rains Tuesday afternoon and was predicted to hit 4 feet above flood stage by Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service.
Gary Valentine, director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency, said that despite the rising river, the outlook was not as bad as officials thought on Tuesday.
Its getting worse, but its moving slower, Valentine said Wednesday morning.
Rain was expected to turn into snow or sleet Wednesday afternoon and continue into the night in northern Ohio, with up to 2 inches predicted. Theres also a chance for snow Thursday.
The rains were being caused by warm, moist air that surged over the state following weekend snowfall. A combination of melting snow and frozen ground that doesnt absorb water was creating the perfect conditions for floods, officials said.
Town set to deploy boats
In Findlay, city leaders were ready to warn business owners that they should be ready to move if the Blanchard River spills over into the downtown area.
The states natural resources department said it will have boats ready if they are needed, said Jim Barker, Findlays safety director. Police planned to put cruisers at all fire stations in case the floodwaters split the city in half, which is what happened in late August.
Neighborhoods were isolated last summer when heavy rains dumped up to 10 inches during a few hours, bringing the citys worst flood since 1913. Damage to city-owned buildings and property was estimated to be as much as $31 million.
If evacuations become necessary, Valentine said a winter flood creates different problems than one in the summer.
Then we had warm water; now we have ice water, he said. Then people waded out of their homes and walked to dry land; this time when youre asked if you want to leave, think about it twice if youre inclined to stay. We dont want people wading in ice water and getting hypothermia.
The downpours left standing water across all lanes of Interstate 75 north of Findlay early Wednesday, forcing a shutdown for more than two hours. The major north-south highway was reopened by 6:30 a.m., the State Highway Patrol said.
Mudslide in Cincinnati
In Cincinnati, one heavily traveled city street was closed during afternoon rush hour Tuesday because a mudslide knocked over a retaining wall.
That corner of the state also had problems with strong winds that reached 60 mph and downed trees and power lines, resulting in outages in several counties.
Flooding of the Grand River in Painesville, east of Cleveland, closed a bridge over the waterway. Flooding there in 2006 destroyed a riverfront condominium complex and forced residents to cling to rooftops awaiting rescue.
In Mansfield, about 60 miles north of Columbus, Ron Harvey also missed a day of work when his cleaning and restoration business was hit Tuesday by about 5 inches of water, the fourth time in two years hes experienced flooding.
They know its a problem, Harvey said of city, state and federal officials. Now every heavy rain ... we get nailed down here.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.