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Swamped Midwestern towns prepare for more flooding

Minnesota and Wisconsin declared emergencies in the flood-ravaged portions of each state. Sandbagging continued with reports that downpours would continue Saturday.

By Staff writer / September 25, 2010

Three unidentified men paddle their canoe on a flooded street near the Ashley Furniture plant in Arcadia, Wis. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency for the area after heavy rains forced many residents from their homes.

Dan Reiland/Eau Claire Leader-Telegram/AP

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Towns across southwest Wisconsin, southern Minnesota and southeast South Dakota are starting to assess the damage wrought by a powerful storm system that delivered nearly a foot of rain less than two days earlier. Storm waters forced the banks of the Mississippi River and other local river systems and lakes to overflow, flooding homes and forcing evacuations that continued though Friday.

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The National Weather Service reports that towns across southern Minnesota received between 6-10 inches of rain Wednesday into Thursday. Floodwaters filled basements, caused home foundations to collapse and surrounded towns with water by submerging highways and county roads and, in some instances, destroying bridges.

A pause in the rain Friday allowed emergency crews to continue evacuations, but sandbagging continued with reports that downpours would continue Saturday. No deaths or injuries are reported. Communities that have yet to be affected by river flooding are particularly in danger with high water flowing downriver.

“This is going to be a long-term kind of issue,” Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesman Doug Neville told the Associated Press Friday.

Minnesota and Wisconsin declared emergencies in the flood-ravaged portions of each state. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty Friday called the flooding an “historic event.” “The water levels here are beyond what most people here have experienced in their lives,” he told ABC News.

Gov. Pawlenty said he will call a special session of the state legislature to seek aid for flood victims, but that will likely happen after a complete assessment of the destruction. The National Weather Service is forecasting more Mississippi River flooding next week near St. Paul.

One of the towns hardest hit by the flooding was Arcadia, Wis., where 343 homes were evacuated after the banks of the Trempealeau River toppled with water, drowning the town’s downtown, destroying power lines, and swamping its two main bridges.

“We’re in a swamp. That’s all it is,” homeowner Andrew Droullard told the Associated Press.

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