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13 killed as waters rise in three states

Mon., Aug. 20, 2007

WINONA, Minn. – Rivers swollen by as much as a foot of rain lifted houses off their foundations and washed away roads, killing at least 13 people in three states, authorities said Sunday.

Hundreds of people in southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin were evacuated, some by boat off rooftops.

“I cannot describe the terror of it all. I’m just glad to be alive,” said Sean Wehlage, 29, who climbed onto the roof of his one-story home in Stockton to wait out the storm.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered 240 National Guard soldiers to the area to help with flood relief and provide security, and the Red Cross set up emergency shelters. Six deaths were reported in Minnesota.

“This is the worst disaster that’s hit southeast Minnesota in a lifetime,” state Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes said.

Flood waters cut a 30-foot gully through one road near tiny Witoka. Two people died after their vehicles plunged in.

In Oklahoma, where the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin soaked the region, a vehicle carrying the wife, daughter and granddaughter of Kiowa Chief Billy Horse was swept from a state highway by rising waters, said Richard Kauahquo, a member of the tribe’s business committee.

The bodies were found inside the van in a large pond about a quarter of a mile west of the highway. Three other people drowned in Oklahoma, including a woman in her cellar in rural Fort Cobb.

Significant flooding was reported in Kingfisher, Okla., where about 100 residents were evacuated from their homes after the nearby Cimarron River flooded its banks.

In Chicago, more than 200 flights were canceled at O’Hare International Airport on Sunday because of low visibility caused by the storms, said Gregg Cunningham, spokesman for the city’s Department of Aviation.


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