The Heat Is Online

Milwaukee Deluged by 8 Inches of Rain in 2 Hours

Soaked Wisconsin braces for more floods

Flights resume at Milwaukee airport; sinkhole swallows Escalade

The Associated Press, July 23, 2010

MILWAUKEE — Weary travelers who were stranded overnight at a Milwaukee airport began flying out Friday afternoon, one day after powerful storms pounded southeastern Wisconsin and caused widespread flooding that grounded all flights.

Both commercial runways at Mitchell International Airport were covered with water Friday morning. Crews reopened one runway about 1 p.m. and continued to work on the other, airport spokesman Ryan McAdams said.

The worst may not be over. Southern Wisconsin was expected to face another night of flooding and winds Friday, with the National Weather Service forecasting as much as 5 inches of rain in some areas. Storms were expected to start clearing up Saturday night.

Marlene Wygle, 60, of Green Bay, said she had been eagerly looking forward to her first-ever flight, a trip to San Francisco to watch her son run a marathon Sunday. Her Delta flight was delayed three times, leaving her disappointed but understanding.

"I saw the rain but didn't think it was going to shut down the airport," she said. "But that's OK. I would rather they be cautious than not safe."
Almost 8 inches of rain poured down in just two hours Thursday evening, snarling traffic in and around Milwaukee and causing widespread power outages.

A giant sink hole in downtown Milwaukee swallowed a Cadillac Escalade. Witnesses estimated the hole was about 20 feet deep and 15 feet wide.

Towing-company owner Mark Pawlik helped rescue the driver from the hole.

"The Escalade just went wham!" Pawlik, 46, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Everything went down."

The driver was taken to a hospital, where his condition wasn't immediately available.

Milwaukee police handled 500 weather-related calls throughout the night, Chief Ed Flynn said, including one where officers evacuated about 100 people from a flooded Country Inn & Suites hotel.

In a separate incident, two people were struck by lightning and hospitalized, according to Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing. Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center spokeswoman Myrle Croasdale told the Journal Sentinel that Stephanie Boyce, 30, was listed in good condition Friday night, but her sister, Mary Boyce, 25, was critical.

Their bother, Martin Boyce, told the newspaper, "Stephanie said the only thing she could remember was lying on the ground and hearing someone calling 911."

Rachel Weeks, 23, was relaxed as she waited for her delayed Delta flight in Milwaukee. The U.S. Navy airman from Neshkoro is returning to Norfolk, Va., after a week of leave, and said she always schedules extra time for travel because the military doesn't accept many excuses for returning late.

"I'm not too bothered," she said of the delay, adding, "It's weird, though. I flew into Milwaukee last year in an ice storm with no problem, and now it's like, really, rain's going to shut (the airport) down?"

Some suburban neighborhoods were flooded in Milwaukee County. Sheriff's Capt. Aisha Barkow said the Root River in Franklin and Oak Creek in South Milwaukee were above their banks.

Police were also investigating a report of a smaller sink hole forming between two Milwaukee homes.

About 2,600 of 32,000 We Energies customers who lost power in Thursday's storms remained without service Friday evening, and Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency in Milwaukee County. The company expected to restore power to all those customers by mid-morning Saturday, assuming overnight storms didn't do additional damage, said company spokesman Barry McNulty.

The National Weather Service reported tornado touchdowns near Whitewater, and more between Palmyra and Muskego, but there were no immediate reports of property damage or injuries. State emergency-management spokeswoman Lori Getter estimated at least half a dozen tornadoes may have touched down in the state.

That was one reason Cheryl Ortiz, 49, of Waukegan, Ill., wasn't too upset that her Friday morning flight from Milwaukee to Fort Worth, Texas was canceled, even though her only other option now is to leave Saturday night.

"They're looking out for people's best interests," she said. "I don't want to be up in the air with a tornado going on."

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.