15 Deaths Blamed on Storms
Jun. 29, 1998
Mobile homes became houseboats in West Virginia on Sunday, a tornado was spawned in Ohio and lightning storms rattled Wisconsin amid heavy rains that deluged several states and caused 15 deaths over the weekend.
About 30 families were forced from a mobile home park in West Virginia, where rising waters caused several homes to come off their moorings, said D.R. Smith, Wood County emergency services director.
A 4-month-old baby and a blind man in a wheelchair were reported missing and one man died of cardiac arrest, which officials said could be flood-related.
``We were actually moving people out of their floating homes,'' Smith said. ``There were some frightened people.''
Flash flooding caused by heavy rains and storms with high winds forced hundreds of people from their homes, closed roads and cut power to more than 58,000 people across West Virginia on Sunday, prompting Gov. Cecil Underwood to declare a state of emergency in 17 counties.
Lightning strikes, raging waterways and fallen power lines wreaked havoc in several states.
A Bridgewater, N.H., man died after being sucked into a narrow culvert that he was trying to clear of debris. Bridgewater Police Chief Bill White said racing water made the 18-inch-wide hole ``a vacuum.''
In Wisconsin, a cluster of thunderstorms Saturday fueled by winds up to 90 mph tore roofs off homes and toppled trees, causing widespread damage. Heavy rain flooded basements and low-lying roads.
``We've got one giant tree lying on our house,'' said Dave George, 47, of Arcadia, Wis., after a 50-foot-plus maple tree crushed his two-story home.
A state of emergency remained in effect Sunday because of wind, rain and lightning storms.
``It's amazing we have any trees left to blow down,'' said Todd Rieck, a National Weather Service meteorologist in La Crosse, Wis. ``Some places just got devastating damage.''
In Christiana, Wis., a farmer managed to escape after his barn collapsed. Rescuers worked for more than eight hours to save his farm animals, though some were found dead in the rubble. The farmer was hospitalized in stable condition.
A 35-year-old man remain missing Sunday after the stalled boat he was in with relatives Saturday plunged over a dam holding back a rain-swollen lake. A 10-year-old girl was rescued by bystanders before the boat went over. Her 7-year-old brother, 34-year-old father and the missing man went over the dam, but the boy and his father were rescued.
As many as 30 roads were closed Sunday in northeastern New York, where runoff from as much as 8 inches of rain was still flowing down mountainous terrain.
``We're discovering more damage by the hour,'' said Ray Thatcher, emergency management director for New York's Essex County.
Roads carrying muddy runoff from fierce downpours that started Friday were impassable in upstate New York, and Vermont's deluged Mad River Valley was littered with uprooted trees tangled with other debris when waters receded.
The ferry from Port Kent, N.Y., to Burlington, Vt., was shut down after a sinkhole closed a major road leading to it.
Tens of thousands of homes in various states lost power due to flooding, falling trees and mudslides.
Susan Marcum of Clendenin, W.Va., said water washed out her driveway and was coming off the hill in her backyard into her bedroom.
``The road in front of our house is nothing but a creek,'' she said.
Ohio Gov. George Voinovich declared 16 counties disaster areas after heavy rains hit the eastern part of the state for the second straight day.
Westbound lanes of Interstate 70 in Ohio were shut down for an 8-mile stretch between New Concord and Cambridge. Six people in Ohio were killed in the weekend flooding, and a seventh died when her mobile home was blown from its foundation by a tornado Saturday.
Lightning strikes killed a Baltimore girl, a camper in upstate New York and a Minnesota farmer holding a pitchfork. Two others swept away by raging rivers died in New York.
In southeastern Minnesota, searchers recovered the body of a woman who was presumed drowned after the van she and a man were in was swept into the storm-swollen Zumbro River early Saturday after a night of heavy rains. The man has not been found.