Fatal Floods in Midwest, Wicked Heat in East

At least 8 deaths have been attributed to bad weather.

ByImaeyen Ibanga, Kelly Hagan, Jen Pereira and Steve Petyerak via via logo

June 9, 2008 — -- The torrential rains that have flooded large parts of the Midwest caused a Wisconsin dam to break Monday, sweeping away homes in dramatic, destructive fashion.

No one was killed or injured in the collapse, but the surging waters created a new tributary to the Wisconsin River and raised concerns about debris moving through the current, according to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

The area is just one part of the Midwest dealing with continued wet weather that, over the weekend, forced evacuations, spawned tornadoes and literally left residents knee-deep in water.

Meanwhile, as temperatures soared in the East, so did demand for electricity by millions of people who turned up the air conditioning. The power demand hit the highest level yet this year in many states along the Atlantic seaboard.

In New York state, demand for electricity hit a record for the year and even beat last year's biggest day set in August, but was short of the record set Aug. 2, 2006, during that year's heat wave.

In New England and 13 states in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, it was a similar story. Today marked the highest energy use for the year, but it wasn't a record.

Eight deaths were attributed to wicked wet weather in the Midwest, and three states were forced to declare disaster areas. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle asked for emergency aid for 29 counties, giving many residents a harsh reminder of the flash-flooding last August, from which many are still recovering.

The massive amount of water pushed entire houses into highways in Wisconsin, and soldiers were deployed to assist evacuations in rural Vernon County, where 24 people were removed.

In Indiana, one man drowned in his vehicle about 50 miles south of Indianapolis, and late Sunday, President George W. Bush declared a major disaster in 29 Indiana counties. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said nearly a third of his state's 99 counties needed federal aid.

Flooding is expected to continue to be a problem for the region throughout the week, as up to 10 inches of rain drains into already saturated and swollen rivers.

"This thing came on fast with such a radical deluge of water that people were describing going from a feeling of security to waist-deep water in a matter of 15 or 20 minutes," said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Indiana residents saw as much as 11 inches of rain sweep through the state on Saturday, and the National Weather Service forecast a new system which could drench the areas with anywhere from one to three inches of rain by late today.

In some areas, torrential rain gulped entire neighborhoods.

"I have lived in this house for three years. My kids and I ... and I am not ready for this," said one Indiana resident whose home was damaged.

In Columbus, Ind., the Columbus Regional Hospital flooded and was forced to close, causing the evacuation of more than 100 patients, according to the Indianapolis Star's Web site. Workers pumped water out of the basement, and a couple inches of mud covered the first floor of the hospital.

"We have lost total power. Our pharmacy, lab operations are all located in the basement, which are still totally underwater," said a Columbus Regional Hospital spokesperson.

Violent weather also hit places from Nebraska to Michigan, where the death toll stood at six. Two people delivering newspapers early Sunday for The Grand Rapids Press drowned after the road beneath their car collapsed and plunged them into a ravine.

Even the Chicago area saw dangerous weather as the system spawned at least seven tree-toppling tornadoes that peeled back rooftops Saturday.

"Our chimney is in our bedroom and our bedroom is in our back yard," one woman said.

The storms also toppled power lines and overturned tractor-trailers.

As the Midwest dealt with its water worries, the East found itself in a totally different position -- grappling with a record-breaking heat wave.

The sizzling temperatures were so bad they forced the cancellation of the Outdoor Special Olympics in Raleigh, N.C., and Norfolk, Va., reached 101 degrees yesterday -- a high not seen on that date since 1899. In Williamsport, Pa., the mercury hit 96 degrees Sunday, which tied the city mark set in 1925.

The hot weather also has put New Jersey and New York on notice as some cities were expected Monday to pass temperature records for the century.

The heat is in keeping with a trend of scorching weather this season. Since June 1, 90 records have been tied or broken, and summer has yet to officially arrive.

Residents sought solace at cooling centers and public pools, some of which were forced to open early because of the heat.

One scientist said he believes people have played a partial role in the extreme weather the country is seeing.

"While this heat wave -- like all other heat waves -- is made by Mother Nature, we've been fooling around by turning the knob and making it a little bit hotter," said Stanford University scientist Stephen Schneider. "We've already increased, by 35 percent, the amount of carbon dioxide, which traps heat. We've added 150 percent more methane, which also traps heat."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events