Severe flooding hits the midwest

March 18, 2008 6:03:44 PM PDT
Torrential rains chased hundreds of people from their flooded homes and deluged roads in the nation's midsection Tuesday, killing at least two people in Missouri and sweeping a teen down a drainage pipe near Dallas. The storm system also grounded hundreds of flights. One control tower at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was briefly evacuated when a funnel cloud was spotted.

The National Weather Service posted flood and flash flood warnings from Texas to Ohio, with tornado watches in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Emergency officials in Mesquite, Texas, searched for a 14-year-old boy apparently swept away by flood waters as he and a friend played in a creek. The friend was able to swim to safety and said he saw the boy get sucked into a drainage pipe, according to a Fire Department news release.

Heavy rain began falling Monday and just kept coming. Forecasters said some parts of Missouri could get 10 inches of rain or more before the storms finally stop Wednesday.

Gov. Matt Blunt activated the Missouri National Guard as high water closed hundreds of roads.

An estimated 200 houses and businesses were flooded in Piedmont, a town of 2,000 residents. McKenzie Creek rose well above its banks before receding, said Eric Fuchs, Wayne County Emergency Management director.

Up to 30 homes were evacuated in Winona, and some residents of Cape Girardeau were trapped in their homes, the State Emergency Management Agency said. In the town of Ellington, as many as 50 homes and half the businesses were evacuated, officials said.

The body of an 81-year-old man was found in the water at Ellington, about 120 miles southwest of St. Louis, said Missouri State Water Patrol Lt. Nicholas Humphrey. A 21-year-old state Department of Transportation worker was killed near Springfield when his dump truck was hit by a tractor-trailer rig as he helped out in a flooded area, state officials said.

Firefighters and police were sent to pull motorists out of flooded roads in and around Springfield, said Greene County Emergency Management Director Ryan Nicholls.

"It's absolutely abnormal to have this much rain and more on the way today and tonight," Nicholls said.

Scott and Marilyne Peterson and their 25-year-old son, Scott Jr., scurried out of their mobile home in rural Piedmont after watching the water rise 3 feet in five minutes. The family had just enough time to grab some essentials, a few clothes and the family dog.

"You didn't have time to worry," Scott Peterson Sr. said. "You just grab what you can and go and you're glad the people are OK."

In Arkansas, authorities searched for a man whose truck was believed to have been swept from a low-water bridge. Authorities found only the vehicle.

Hundreds of people in Lancaster, south of Dallas, were advised to evacuate their homes as the Ten Mile Creek rose.

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, American Airlines canceled about 700 departures and arrivals because of wind near 70 mph and heavy rain, and more than 100 of the carrier's flights headed to that airport were diverted, said airline spokesman Tim Wagner.

Federal Aviation Administration officials evacuated the airport's west tower for about 15 minutes after seeing a funnel cloud. Another was spotted over Lake Lewisville, just north of the airport.

"This is one of the most vicious thunderstorms DFW has seen in quite some time, especially its ongoing intensity," said airport spokesman Ken Capps. "Add in two snow storms in the past two weeks and this has been one of the most unusual early spring weather patterns in years."

At Dallas Love Field, some 20 Southwest flights were canceled, 20 others were diverted and many other flights were delayed, said airline spokeswoman Ashley Rogers.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Marcus Kabel in Springfield; Jim Salter and Christopher Leonard in St. Louis; Chris Blank in Jefferson City; Anabelle Garay in Dallas; and Chuck Bartels in Little Rock, Ark.