By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Flash floods kill 3 in Indiana, including 2 young children; 1 dead in Arkansas tornado
Weather Flooding IN 5200736
Brandon Wilson walks through flood water outside his home in Monon, Ind. Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008. Heavy rain and melting snow pushed Indiana rivers and streams over their banks Tuesday, with floodwaters killing at least three people, including two children in an SUV that plunged into several feet of water. - photo by Associated Press
    REMINGTON, Ind. — Rescuers used a front-end loader to pluck a woman and three children from the roof of a sport utility vehicle that strayed into floodwaters on a rural road. But they were unable to reach her other two young children trapped inside the SUV.
    The children were among three people killed in Indiana on Tuesday after heavy rain and melting snow pushed rivers and streams over their banks. The flooding was exacerbated by unseasonably warm weather, which helped fuel tornadoes that raked several states Monday and Tuesday.
    The storms were moving eastward Wednesday. At least 40,000 customers in western New York were without electricity after thunderstorms tore across the region overnight, knocking down trees and power lines from Lake Erie to the Finger Lakes, utilities reported. Gusts of up to 75 mph were reported in Rochester, according to the National Weather Service.
    A tornado that hit Appleton, Ark., on Tuesday rolled a double-wide mobile home off its cinder block supports, killing a man and injuring his wife. The trailer appeared to have rolled for 50 yards before smashing against a stand of trees in the rural area, about 60 miles northwest of Little Rock.
    ‘‘The tornado hit and ... it looked like his house pretty much exploded,’’ Pope County Sheriff Jay Winters said. ‘‘It was taken completely off the blocks and just tore to pieces. They were both in the wreckage.’’
    Kirk Killins, his girlfriend, and his father were heading toward his parents’ house and storm cellar when his truck was stalled against the tornado’s winds.
    ‘‘I had it floored and it wasn’t doing nothing. I looked to my right and the hay barn and shop just disappeared,’’ Killins said.
    ‘‘I don’t know how we kept from getting killed,’’ he said. ‘‘When the truck started spinning and I saw tin flying by, I thought this was it.’’
    Killins said the tornado picked up one of his family’s cows. It survived, even though the storm ‘‘probably carried her about three-quarters of a mile,’’ he said.
    The weather service declared tornado watches or warnings Tuesday in states including Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky. Several tornadoes were confirmed or reported Monday in Wisconsin, Arkansas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Missouri, where two people were killed.
    In northern Indiana, Megihann Leininger’s SUV stalled Tuesday on a flooded road near Rochester, about 45 miles south of South Bend, before floating into deeper water, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department said.
    The first officer on the scene could see nothing except its roof rack, Mentone Fire Chief Mike Yazel said. He said Leininger, 29, was able to come to the surface and put three of her children on the roof: Mariah Leininger, 4, Michael McDaniel, 1, and Canari Trigg, 3 months.
    It took several minutes for crews to rescue the four, but there was nothing they could do for Shay Leininger, 5, and Ashley Pruitt, 2, who were trapped underwater.
    ‘‘The water was too deep, too cold, too fast,’’ Yazel said. Their mother ‘‘had to sit there on the roof, knowing that would be the worst part of the story,’’ he said.
    To the southwest in Jasper County, Ronnie D. Napier, 56, drowned in Remington when his truck was swept into Carpenter Creek floodwaters, said Shawn Brown, a conservation officer with the Department of Natural Resources. His body was later recovered.
    As many as 150 people evacuated areas around Remington, where water reached waist-high in some places, said Karen Wilson, Jasper County’s emergency management director.
    In nearby White County, boats were called to help move out hundreds of people in Monticello, Blue Water Beach and Diamond Point, county emergency management director Gordon Cochran said.
    Jasper, White, Carroll and Benton counties declared states of emergency. The weather service reported near-record flooding at the Norway and Oakdale dams just north of Monticello, a city of 5,700 people about 90 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Officials ordered mandatory evacuations south of the Norway dam Tuesday night.
    The Indiana Department of Transportation said several highways would be closed until floodwaters recede. The southbound lanes of Interstate 65 in Jasper County were reopened overnight, but U.S. 24 remained closed for more than 20 miles between Reynolds and Interstate 65 while crews inspected a bridge.
    Flood warnings were in effect along the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers, and the American Red Cross set up shelters in Lafayette and Delphi.
    The thunderstorms that dumped between 3 and 6 inches of rain on Indiana were accompanied by record warmth across much of the eastern half of the nation. Boston reached 67 degrees, Atlantic City, N.J., hit 68 and Syracuse, N.Y., reached 70 — tying a record for the month of January.
    The warmth melted Indiana’s snow pack, which combined with heavy rain, triggered the flooding, said Phil Gray, a weather service spokesman in Indianapolis. He said some flooded counties had as much as 10 inches of snow on the ground.
    Rain continued falling into the night, leading to flood warnings in other areas, including Randolph County, where meteorologist Sally Pavlow said residents were sandbagging an area about two miles south of Winchester.
    ‘‘It’s just been raining so hard for so long,’’ she said.
    Associated Press writers Emily Udell and Tom Davies in Indianapolis, Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock, Ark., and Michael Virtanen in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter