Storm in Midwest leaves one woman dead

Sunday, April 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Damaging wind gusts began to ease in the Midwest early Sunday as a storm that caused severe flooding and left at least one person dead pulled out of the region.

A woman was killed in Dundee Township, Ill., outside Chicago, when a tree struck her car at about noon Saturday, according to police. The victim's name was being withheld pending the notification of her family.

Wind gusts of up to 79 mph were recorded in parts of the Midwest Saturday. The storm overturned tractor-trailer rigs, knocked out power and peeled a 2-ton ribbon of copper sheet off the roof of Nebraska's Capitol.

Locally heavy rain combined with melting snow to flood homes, roads and basements in South Dakota and Minnesota; flood warnings were in effect in North Dakota.

Wind gusts measured at nearly 65 mph ripped a long section of original copper roofing off part of Nebraska's Capitol in Lincoln, said Mike Rindone, chief architect and project manager for the Capitol building's restoration project.

About a ton of the sheet remained atop the building, but the other half draped over the side, held in place by scaffolding used in the restoration, Rindone said.

Elsewhere in Lincoln, a garage fire spread to two apartment buildings and eight families had to be evacuated. And in Omaha, the wind damaged a church steeple, homes and businesses. Power outages were reported throughout the eastern half of Nebraska.

The wind overturned tractor-trailer rigs in parts of Minnesota and Iowa, and Xcel Energy in Minnesota said about 12,000 customers lost power in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. A gust of 79 mph was measured at Fairmont, Minn., near the Iowa state line. The wind also knocked out power in parts of Wisconsin, damaged one house and destroyed two barns.

An estimated 5,000 customers were blacked out in Iowa, said Alliant Energy spokesman John Ruff.

``For every customer we get on as the storm system moves east, it knocks out another customer,'' Ruff said.

Mike Jones, a spokesman with Omaha Public Power District, said about 2,000 customers were without power Saturday night.

``Right now we're out there trying to make as many repairs as we can as quickly as we can,'' he said. ``We are making progress.''

In North Dakota, where cities already had been reinforcing levees and piling sandbags in anticipation of floods caused by melting snow, up to 2 inches of rain fell from late Friday into early Saturday. The National Weather Service posted flash flood warnings for counties in the eastern part of the state.

``Everybody should understand we're into the major flooding category, but it should be manageable,'' said Dennis Walaker, Fargo's public works operations manager.

Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness declared an emergency Saturday, authorizing the Corps of Engineers to start building emergency dikes. The Red River was already above flood stage of 17 feet and was forecast to crest at around 35 feet by the end of the week.

At Grand Forks, N.D., the Red River is expected to crest at around 44 feet on April 18 or 19; it was already over its 28-foot flood stage. In 1997, the river peaked at more than 54 feet and inundated the city.

Watertown, S.D., collected 2.27 inches of rain and 18 homes were evacuated because of flooding in a mobile home park. Wessington Springs got 3.14 inches. The Big Sioux River was expected to crest Monday at 2 feet above flood stage at Watertown and 5 feet over at Castlewood, the weather service said.

The state activated 150 National Guard members and called in 100 prison inmates to help with sandbagging and dike construction at Watertown, and the city opened emergency shelters, readied 56,000 sandbags and closed valves to prevent river water from flowing back through storm sewers.