March 19, 2008 in Nation/World

Heavy rains cause flooding across central U.S.

Betsy Taylor Associated Press
 

PIEDMONT, Mo. – Torrential rains chased hundreds of people from their flooded homes and deluged roads in the nation’s midsection Tuesday, killing at least two people in Missouri and sweeping a teen down a drainage pipe near Dallas.

The storm system also grounded hundreds of flights. One control tower at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was briefly evacuated when a funnel cloud was spotted.

The National Weather Service posted flood and flash flood warnings from Texas to Ohio, with tornado watches in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Emergency officials in Mesquite, Texas, searched for a 14-year-old boy apparently swept away by floodwaters as he and a friend played in a creek. The friend was able to swim to safety and said he saw the boy get sucked into a drainage pipe.

Heavy rain began falling Monday and just kept coming. Forecasters said some parts of Missouri could get 10 inches of rain or more before the storms finally stop today.

Gov. Matt Blunt activated the Missouri National Guard as high water closed hundreds of roads.

About 300 of the 900 homes in Piedmont were evacuated Tuesday when the McKenzie Creek flowed over its banks and caused flooding 2 to 3 feet deep in the center of town. Dozens of people were rescued in about 15 to 20 boat trips.

Up to 30 homes were evacuated in Winona, and some residents of Cape Girardeau were trapped in their homes, the State Emergency Management Agency said. In the town of Ellington, as many as 50 homes and half the businesses were evacuated, officials said.

The body of an 81-year-old man was found in the water at Ellington, about 120 miles southwest of St. Louis. A 21-year-old state Department of Transportation worker was killed near Springfield when his dump truck was hit by a tractor-trailer rig as he helped out in a flooded area.

Firefighters and police were sent to pull motorists out of flooded roads in and around Springfield, said Greene County Emergency Management Director Ryan Nicholls.

“It’s absolutely abnormal to have this much rain and more on the way today and tonight,” Nicholls said.

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, more than half of the 950 scheduled departures were canceled and 100 arrivals were diverted because of heavy rain and winds that briefly reached more than 100 mph.

Federal Aviation Administration officials evacuated the airport’s west tower for about 15 minutes Tuesday morning after seeing a funnel cloud.

“This is one of the most vicious thunderstorms DFW has seen in quite some time, especially its ongoing intensity,” airport spokesman Ken Capps said.

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