MILWAUKEE (AP) — The repair bill from nearly two weeks’ worth of flooding continued to rise on Wednesday, a day after an 11-year-old boy in eastern Wisconsin was saved from a waterlogged drainage ditch by an eagle-eyed firefighter, officials said.
The damaging storms Tuesday brought heavy rain, hail and powerful winds to a region already swamped and suffering power cuts from previous downpours. Several possible tornadoes were reported in Wisconsin.
Gov. Scott Walker separately declared a statewide emergency on Wednesday. That came after the governor had declared a state of emergency in seven counties over the past week. The statewide declaration was the first step toward seeking federal assistance.
The boy who was swept into a storm drain was playing with friends after the rains passed around 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the village of Harrison. The Calumet County Sheriff’s Office said the boy was in the flooded drainage ditch when he went under water and didn’t surface.
The Calumet County dive team, sheriff’s deputies and others searched the ditch and storm sewer. The boy managed to find an air pocket and was rescued after a firefighter who was about 30 feet away saw his finger poking through a manhole cover. The boy was taken to the hospital, and authorities said he was alert and conscious.
Wisconsin emergency officials said 20 counties have been affected by flooding over the past 10 days. Rainfall of 5 to 11 inches in western Wisconsin forced people in La Crosse, Vernon and Monroe counties to leave their homes. Officials have yet to say how many homes were affected by the floods.
The heavy rain affected transportation throughout the region.
The deluge stranded two Amtrak trains carrying about 400 passengers because of flooding over the train tracks in southern Wisconsin. Both trains were forced to stop near Tomah and sat on the tracks overnight.
Lori Getter, spokeswoman for Wisconsin Emergency Management, said the trains never lost power and that passengers were given food and water. Both trains were expected to resume their routes on Wednesday, she said.
Parts of Interstate 90/94 were closed overnight because of standing water on the pavement.
Several tornadoes were spotted on Tuesday afternoon in Campbellsport, Lomira, Oakfield and Brandon, Wisconsin, according to the National Weather Service. The service has not confirmed that tornadoes hit in any of these locations. Two barns were demolished in Fond du Lac County, killing about 100 cattle, Getter said.
Some 12,000 We Energies customers were still without power on Wednesday morning as utility crews worked overtime to restore service.
Forecasts called for drier weather Wednesday and Thursday. More rain was expected on Friday and Saturday.
The storms also caused power outages to about 2,200 customers in the southwest Wisconsin city of La Crosse, according to Xcel Energy, but that number was down to fewer than 1,000 by late Tuesday afternoon. At the outage’s peak, 22,500 Xcel Energy customers in Minnesota and Wisconsin were without power. Meanwhile, in southeast Minnesota, powerful winds downed trees and power lines.
The western counties of La Crosse, Vernon and Monroe have already been particularly hard hit with 5 to 11 inches of rain. In Coon Valley, a town of about 765 people just southeast of La Crosse, emergency responders helped residents evacuate Monday night and into Tuesday morning. People also were evacuated in the villages of La Farge and Readstown on Tuesday, bringing the number of evacuations close to 120, Vernon County spokeswoman Linda Nederlo said. In Vernon County, nearly 40 roads were closed.
Residents at the Bothne House retirement center in Coon Valley had to be told to leave twice. They were first sent to the Village Hall and then, when the hall was flooded, to a nearby elementary school, the La Crosse Tribune reported.