Midwest Beset By Flooding, Snowstorm

(AP) Homeowners trudged through frigid, waist-deep water Thursday to begin assessing damage after the Blanchard River burst its banks, flooding basements for the second time in five months.

The flooding, which began Wednesday, wasn't as bad flooding in August _ the city's worst since 1913 _ but some residents said they'd had enough.

"Time to move," said Dameion Cortez, who came home to find his basement furnace underwater.

Across the street, Airon Ramsey waded almost a block through water to feed his cat.

"I got in the door and my toes were already blue," he said. "I believe in hypothermia now."

Fire Capt. Tom DeFrieze said that only three people needed help getting out of their homes Thursday, and that the rescue boats on standby weren't needed. Only a dozen people took refuge at a shelter outside the flood zone.

The Blanchard River reached 5 feet above flood stage early Thursday before it began to drop, said Marty Thompson of the National Weather Service in Cleveland. The river was expected to fall below the flood stage of 11 feet by Friday afternoon, the Weather Service said.

Meanwhile, other northern Ohio residents began preparing for flooding that was expected to peak Friday.

Restaurant owners in Grand Rapids, along the Maumee River about 20 miles south of Toledo, cleared out their freezers as water threatened to swamp the historic downtown, filled with antique shops and eateries. The river was expected to crest at 19.5 feet, 4.5 feet above flood stage, Friday morning, according to the Weather Service.

"We've got a little advance notice," said Les Heyman, assistant fire chief. "Everybody's got an evacuation plan."

Flood warnings were posted throughout northern Ohio, from Toledo to Youngstown. Snow, but no rain, was expected over the next few days, allowing some to hope the worst was over. Still, cold weather in the forecast threatened to ice up streets.

In Kentland, Ind., a crane pulled a car containing the bodies of two women and a man from a flooded quarry on Thursday, three days after investigators believe it crashed into the normally dry pit in northwestern Indiana.

State conservation officer Matt Tholen said the car probably plunged into the quarry on Monday, when the area was blanketed with heavy fog that police blamed in crashes that killed three others.

The discovery came as rivers crested in many flooded areas across northern Indiana.

Wisconsin officials apologized to the thousands of motorists left stranded in the snow for up to 12 hours in a backup about 19 miles long, some without food, water or gasoline, after big rigs lost traction on a small hill in the westbound lane of Interstate 39-90 between Madison and Janesville.

The State Patrol said it did not learn of the backup until about 4 p.m., hours after the first drivers became stuck. The patrol sent workers to check on motorists and try to clear the road at that point, patrol Superintendent David Collins said.

Jennifer Doggett, 40, said authorities never came by to offer help during the eight hours she and her sister were stranded. The two trudged a mile through a foot of snow to a hotel because they had to use the bathroom and needed food.

The State Patrol counted more than 2,000 trucks and cars stranded or stopped on both sides of the four-lane highway Wednesday night and early Thursday, Collins said.

The traffic started moving slowly late Wednesday after a storm dumped some 20 inches of snow on the area. By Thursday morning, traffic was returning to normal.

A major snowstorm forced more than 200 school districts and private schools in Michigan to cancel classes Thursday. Dozens of schools in New York state were closed or delayed the start of classes because of icy conditions.

Lines at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport were long Thursday morning, a day after carriers canceled about 1,000 flights. Eighty flights were anceled Thursday morning, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation. About 100 passengers spent the night on cots.

In Washington state, heavy snow and high winds closed all highways through the Cascade Range for hours and left thousands without power Thursday.

The Weather Service issued an unusual blizzard warning through Thursday afternoon for the north and central Cascades and predicted 15 to 30 inches of new snow in the mountains by Friday morning.


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