Ike leaves Midwest in the dark after rain, winds

September 17, 2008 11:39:40 AM PDT
Tens of thousands across the Midwest snapped up batteries, generators and coolers as they waited Wednesday for crews to restore power amid the soggy mess left behind by Hurricane Ike. Flood warnings remained in effect Wednesday across the region.

As much as 10 inches of rain fell in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri after Ike hit Texas over the weekend. Hurricane-force wind blew in Ohio and Kentucky and a tornado in Arkansas damaged several buildings.

Ohio's utilities reported at least 900,000 people still without power Wednesday. Some were expected to be in the dark until the weekend. Long lines at supermarkets, hardware stores and gas stations had receded, but stores were running short on emergency supplies.

Home Depot stores were short on generators, tarps, gas cans and other emergency supplies because some stock had been sent south to help with hurricane relief in Texas and Louisiana, said Jen King, a spokeswoman for Home Depot Inc.

"I'm pretty well getting empty," said Fred Beckert, who owns Beckert Chain Saw Supply in Zanesville, Ohio. He was expecting more shipments later in the week but said generators coming in already had buyers.

Elsewhere, truckloads of batteries, ice and coolers were selling as soon as they hit the shelves. Grocers and residents alike tried to preserve perishable food.

Lines of people waited for bagged ice at a bigg's supermarket in Mason, Ohio, and Cincinnati-based Home City Ice Co. was operating 24 hours a day to help meet the heavy demand.

"We've brought in about 160 semi loads of ice from our facilities in neighboring states, and even our managers and computer and accounting people have been bagging and delivering ice," said Jay Stautberg, Home City Ice's chief financial officer.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland toured wind-damaged sections of Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus on Tuesday, a day after declaring a state of emergency.

The governors of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania have also declared states of emergency. The storms brought Ike's death toll to at least 49 in 11 states from the Gulf Coast to the upper Ohio Valley, with new reports continuing to surface.

A 20-month-old boy apparently drowned in a stormwater-filled ditch near Auburn, Mich., about 100 miles north of Detroit. Firefighters tried to resuscitate the boy but he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

In Indiana, there were more than 70,000 customers without service Wednesday morning.

Across Kentucky, power outages still affected nearly 300,000 customers, the state said, down from as many as 600,000 customers at the peak - the state's biggest power outage on record. Louisville Gas & Electric predicted full power restoration in 10 to 14 days, with about 160,000 customers doing without power there early Wednesday.

Downed lines also knocked out power in western Pennsylvania, where about 64,000 customers remained in the dark early Wednesday. Utilities said they hoped to restore service to a majority of customers by Friday. Butler County, north of Pittsburgh, was under a state of emergency.

With flood crests expected to be below earlier projections, several Missouri communities were breathing easier. Still, problems persisted on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service lowered predicted crests at St. Louis and other communities by 2 to 6 feet. Significant flooding was happening nevertheless along parts of the Missouri, Mississippi and other rivers.

"We've got a lot of high water on a lot of rivers, and it's causing backup on the tributaries and the creeks," said Susie Stonner, spokeswoman for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency.

The Meramec River, for instance, has risen above flood stage three times since March. Forecasters now believe it will crest at 36 feet in Arnold, Mo., on Thursday - 6 feet below earlier projections but still 12 feet above flood stage.

Dozens of state highways remained closed in Missouri on Wednesday. Power outages that peaked at more than 80,000 after the storms were down to about 1,000 homes by Wednesday, most in the Charleston area of southeast Missouri.

In Illinois, water had largely receded in and around Chicago by Wednesday. In the hard-hit Chicago neighborhood of Albany Park, power was restored to all 340 homes flooded over the weekend after Ike overwhelmed drainage and sewer systems.

In suburban Des Plaines, Ill., where more than 1,000 people were displaced by flooding, the Des Plaines River was expected to fall below flood stage Wednesday, the National Weather Service said. "The recovery process is under way," said Will Soderberg, a city spokesman. "And that should take the rest of the week."

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Associated Press writers Doug Whiteman in Columbus, Ohio; Jim Salter in St. Louis; David Mercer in Champaign, Ill.; Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Ky.; and Ramesh Santanam in Saxonburg, Pa., contributed to this report.


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