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Midwest copes with floods, East warned of heat

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INDIANAPOLIS — Military crews joined a desperate sandbagging operation Monday as Indiana streams flooded to record levels, while the East Coast turned into a steam bath with temperatures simmering toward the century mark.

Eight deaths had been blamed on stormy weekend weather, most in the Midwest. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle declared an emergency for 29 counties and President Bush late Sunday declared a major disaster in 29 Indiana counties. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said nearly a third of his state's 99 counties need federal help.

Flooding was expected to be a continuing problem this week in the Midwest as rivers are swollen with the runoff from heavy weekend rainfall, topped by the 11 inches that fell Saturday in Indiana.

"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 or 15 or 20 minutes," said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who canceled a trade mission to Japan.

A new storm system was headed toward the Ohio Valley from the southern Plains on Monday — Oklahoma got up to 6 inches of rain by late morning and utilities reported nearly 5,000 customers blacked out — and the National Weather Service said as much as 3 inches of rain could fall on already waterlogged Indiana late Monday.

Some 200 Indiana National Guard members and 140 Marines and sailors joined local emergency agencies Monday in sandbagging a levee of the White River at Elnora, about 100 miles southwest of Indianapolis. The White River was forecast to crest Tuesday at nearby Newberry at 16 feet above flood stage.

Local officials said they wanted to raise nearly a mile of levees as much as 3 feet.

By Monday morning, flooding at eight sites in central and southern Indiana had eclipsed levels set in the deluge of March 1913, which had been considered Indiana's greatest flood in modern times, said Scott Morlock, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Indiana.

Those sites included Newberry, where the White River reached 28.04 feet Monday morning, topping the record of 26.98 feet set in March 1913.

While the Midwest fought to cope with flooding, the East was locked in a sauna. Heat advisories were posted Monday from the Carolinas to Connecticut, with temperatures expected to hit 100 from Georgia to New York, the National Weather Service said.

"It's just crazy. ... It's really, really hot," said New York City street worker Jessica Pena as she swept a midtown Manhattan street at around 8:15 a.m. The temperature already was in the upper 80s.

About 17,000 customers in and around New York City were blacked out by thunderstorms that struck late Sunday and the rising demand for electricity Monday to run air conditioners, utilities said. A subway system power outage disrupted some morning rush hour service.

New York City opened 300 cooling centers Monday, said Office of Emergency Management spokesman Chris Gilbride. District of Columbia officials declared Monday and Tuesday Code Red days for poor air quality, and schools in parts of Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were closed early as class rooms heated up.

The flooding in Indiana was just part of the result of intense thunderstorms that pounded the Midwest during the weekend.

Michigan was hit by wind up to 80 mph and more than 5 inches of rain, and utilities said some 200,000 homes and business were still blacked out Monday. Flood warnings were posted Monday for much of western Lower Michigan, the weather service said.

In western Wisconsin, about 250 people were evacuated in nine counties, said Mike Goetzman, a spokesman for Wisconsin Emergency Management. Prison inmate crews helped fill sandbags Monday in Baraboo and Fall River in south-central Wisconsin, he said.

Officials warned that Wisconsin's Kickapoo River could crest 6 feet over flood stage sometime Monday, but some small towns had already become isolated islands.

"It ain't normal," said Monte Sheldon, 47. The weekend rain washed out part of his yard outside Viroqua, Wis., depositing his trees across a highway.

Rushing water in southeastern Minnesota washed out some roads and recently planted crops, and officials urged residents of the Winnebago Valley to evacuate.

Downstream, the Winnebago River rose to a record 18.7 feet late Sunday at Mason City, Iowa. The surge burst a levee, shutting down the city's water treatment plant, and Mason City's nearly 30,000 residents were told not to drink the water or flush toilets.

The weekend death toll included six in Michigan, one in Indiana and one in Connecticut. One man was missing in Indiana.

Associated Press writers Todd Richmond in Gays Mills, Wis., Tom Murphy in Indianapolis, and Ula Ilnytzky in New York City contributed to this report.