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Rain moves east as death toll from days of flooding climbs to 22 in Midwest, southern Plains

    CAREY, Ohio — At the end of a long block of flooded homes, Mike Watkins used a generator to try to pump 4 feet of water out of his mother’s basement. But he was clearly in a losing battle.
    In front of his house, kids rode bikes through the knee-deep water and residents took pictures of their water-logged neighborhood as more water poured in from the overflowing Spring Run Creek at the center of the village.
    ‘‘At least the kids are having fun,’’ Watkins said.
    The residents of Carey are the latest victims of storms that have buffeted the Midwest and Plains since the weekend, leaving roads flooded, schools canceled and sending rescuers out on boats.
    The death toll from two storm systems — one in the Upper Midwest and the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin in Texas and Oklahoma — reached 22 on Tuesday when searchers found the body of a man tangled in a tree near Lewiston, Minn.
    In Wisconsin and Minnesota, thousands of homes were damaged. A preliminary survey by the American Red Cross in Minnesota identified about 4,200 affected homes, including 256 complete losses, 338 with major damage and 475 that are still inaccessible, said Kris Eide, the state’s director of homeland security and emergency management.
    Flooding remained a problem Wednesday in parts of Ohio. While the forecast called for only scattered showers, several rivers were still rising and not expected to crest before Wednesday afternoon.
    Record flooding was predicted near Findlay in northwest Ohio, where the Blanchard River was close to 7 feet above flood stage Wednesday morning and likely to rise more, the National Weather Service said.
    In northern Iowa, widespread flooding continued as thunderstorms dumped more heavy rain across the already water-logged region Wednesday. Strong wind damaged buildings, and some roads and homes were underwater.
    President Bush said the government would move quickly to process requests for help from Minnesota so that residents could count on a ‘‘flood of help’’ to come down. He spoke before heading to a Republican fundraiser in the state.
    About 100 flood victims met with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in a sometimes contentious meeting Monday during which he cautioned against expecting miracles, especially because many flood victims don’t have insurance.
    ‘‘We need to know what’s going to go on so we can start making plans,’’ Jeff Strain, of Stockton, said Tuesday, standing beside muddied boxes of Christmas decorations, a bike and other household goods piled on his driveway. ‘‘As far as government, I haven’t heard anything.’’
    Preliminary damage reports in Wisconsin topped $38 million Tuesday and were expected to keep rising. Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency in five counties and began the process for requesting federal disaster assistance.
    Another 1 to 2 inches of rain fell in isolated areas of Wisconsin Tuesday night and early Wednesday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Welvaert. A flash flood watch remained in effect for Wednesday morning.
    ‘‘With the amount of saturated soils and the rivers as full as they are, that could cause some issues,’’ said weather service meteorologist Mike Fowle.
    Wednesday’s forecast in Ohio called for only scattered showers with rainfall of less than an inch, but the Blanchard, Auglaize and Ottawa rivers were already well past flood stage Tuesday and were expected to crest by Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
    At the village of Gays Mills, about 60 miles southeast of La Crosse, Wis., about half of the village was accessible Tuesday, and the growl of sump pumps filled the air as residents made their way back in.
    Jennifer Schlegel, 39, stood outside what was left of the home she shared with her husband, daughter, son and mother. Her backyard was still a brown lake. Her deck was gone, ripped away by the current, and every room of the house was coated with mud.
    Schlegel said she didn’t get flood insurance because she had full home coverage and the mortgage was paid. ‘‘You’re thinking it’s not going to happen,’’ said Schlegel, her jeans and T-shirt streaked with mud.
    In Oklahoma, which recorded a gust of 82 mph and rainfall of 11 inches, about 300 homes and businesses were damaged in the Kingfisher area and in Caddo County in southwestern Oklahoma, officials said.
    Numerous flood warnings were to remain in effect through Wednesday and Thursday, and Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency in 24 counties.
    According to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, 2007 is so far the fourth-wettest on record in the state, with an average rainfall total of 31.96 inches, 8.42 inches above normal.

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