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Heavy Rain, High Winds Nail Midwest; Residents Sandbag Rising Rivers

April 30, 1996

ROCKFORD, Ind. (AP) _ The rain-swollen White River had hopped its banks and was sweeping through Danny and Anne Williams backyard, just inches from their home.

``That over there,″ Williams said, pointing at a half-submerged wooden bird house, ``that’s my danger zone marker. When I can’t see it, I know I’m in trouble.″

Through much of the Midwest Monday, people were in trouble after several days of torrential rains and high winds swept through the region.

Four deaths in Missouri were blamed on the weather, including a fisherman whose boat went over a 4-foot spillway and capsized.

In Illinois, officials evacuated about 400 homes and 163 nursing home residents Monday in the East St. Louis area. Another 500 homes were threatened, said Rex Coble, deputy director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

Up to nine inches of rain fell in central and southern Indiana since Sunday and extensive flooding was reported. Hundreds of people evacuated and several counties reported that every main road was closed.

``We’ve had a 100-year rain yesterday and today,″ John Payne, a retired weather watcher for the National Weather Service in Evansville, said Monday.

In Waverly, another fork of the river that flooded the Williams’ back yard was continuing to rise Monday night, lapping just feet from the front doors of homes. The National Guard was helping residents sandbag the river.

Sean Walden, a Harrison Township Fire Department employee who lives nearby, arrived to help at 6 p.m. Monday. In 45 minutes, the river level had gone up a foot.

``Man, you can see the river rising,″ Walden said.

Twenty miles south of St. Louis, mud slides closed roads and knocked a freight train engine off its tracks, trapping three people for about an hour before they were rescued Monday morning.

At Grant’s Farm in St. Louis County, two of Anheuser-Busch’s famed Clydesdales died when they were struck by lightning Sunday night at the brewery’s petting zoo and exotic animal farm.

Hail and winds of up to 80 mph lashed at Joplin, Mo., early Sunday, peeling roofs off two motels, taking part of the roof of a Catholic church, and knocking the siding off a section of a St. Louis medical center. At least two convenience stores and a video store were destroyed.

At Syl’s Cafe, Timothy Will was with his 5-year-old son and a friend Sunday when he noticed water starting to seep in. Before they could leave, four feet of water was racing over the parking lot, ripping up big chunks of asphalt. The trio waded to an abandoned gas station next door, climbed a ladder, and waited on the roof for more than three hours before the Missouri Water Patrol could get a boat in to rescue them.

A ``Sorry, We’re Closed,″ sign hung on the window Monday as workers swept brown, muddy water from the cafe floor out into what was left of the parking lot.

In Bethalto, Ill., a gust of wind tore the roof off the police station. ``The wind came through, and it just peeled it back from one side to another,″ said Police Chief Tony Sammis.

Two 17-year-old girls died near Cuba, Mo., Sunday when their car lost control in the heavy rains. A 78-year-old woman also died in a traffic accident in Missouri, and on Monday, authorities found the body of the 20-year-old fisherman who drowned when his boat capsized on Callaway Valley Lake.

About 36,500 Missouri customers and 10,000 in Illinois remained without power Monday, down from a peak of more than 200,000 in both states.

``The rain is as bad as I’ve ever seen,″ said Trish DeVoy, executive director of the Southwestern Indiana Red Cross.

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