March 1, 2011 / 6:57 PM / 8 years ago

Rain and snowmelt trigger Midwest flooding

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Rivers and streams swollen by rain and melting snow spilled flood waters into communities across Illinois, Indiana and Ohio on Tuesday, killing one woman whose vehicle was swept into a river.

There were also four storm-related deaths in Tennessee, and flash floods struck in the mountainous eastern part of the state, authorities said.

Strong storms lashed the region with high winds and up to five inches of rain beginning on Sunday, adding to run-off from melting snow and ice to push rivers out of their banks.

Dozens of people had to be rescued in and around Findlay, Ohio, as flood waters from the cresting Blanchard River inundated residential neighborhoods and part of downtown.

The fast-flowing river crested early on Tuesday and was gradually receding, and the city of 37,000 was spared compared to the worst of five floods experienced in 2007 and 2008, Mayor Pete Sehnert said by telephone.

“We’ve bought a lot of properties up and tore a lot of homes down” that in the past would have been in the path of the waters, Sehnert said. Residents were warned about the coming flood and volunteers stacked tens of thousands of sandbags.

Water and electricity services were on in Findlay, but schools and many businesses were closed, Sehnert said. The city divided its police and fire personnel on either side of the river in anticipation of bridges being shut down.

Overflowing rivers and creeks across northern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio flooded roads, golf courses, farmland and some homes, the National Weather Service said. It issued dozens of flood warnings, noting some rivers had yet to crest.

Across northern Ohio, 700 people were evacuated from their homes, said Tamara McBride of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

“There have been more people who have chosen not to evacuate. We really don’t know yet the number of people affected,” McBride said.

The 51-year-old woman who died was traveling near Norwalk when flood waters from a tributary swept her vehicle off the road and into the overflowing Huron River, McBride said.

The deaths in Tennessee included two victims who died when trees fell on their trailer homes, a worker who was sucked into a culvert, and a motorist who crashed on a water-covered road, Jeremy Heidt of the state’s emergency management agency said.

Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Jerry Norton

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