Storms hammer Midwest with floods, tornadoes

Powerful storms unleashed tornadoes and flooding across the Midwest on Saturday and forced the evacuation of a small Iowa town after a major break in a nearby dam.

Hopkinton, a town of about 640 in northeastern Iowa, was evacuated as 10 inches of rain in 12 hours swelled the Maquoketa River and caused the failure of the Lake Delhi dam.

“We’re talking about a catastrophic break in the dam, which has never happened before,” Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said.

There were no known injuries, and it was too soon to gauge the extent of the damage, Culver said.

Video showed massive amounts of water violently gushing from the pool behind the dam into the Maquoketa River below. Nearby homes and buildings were in water up to their eaves.

As of Saturday evening, the waters appeared to be receding, according to Jim Flansburg, communications director for Culver.

In Chicago, dozens of people were plucked from flooded homes in the western suburbs, where up to 8 inches of rain fell overnight.

The overnight storms disrupted travel and cut power to thousands of homes in and around the city, where more storms were forecast for late Saturday.

Forecasters said a similar pattern was developing in Pennsylvania and New York.

In Chicago, the National Weather Service said more than 7.5 inches of rain — what the city sees in two months during a normal summer — fell at Midway Airport in 24 hours.

The Eisenhower Expressway, which connects Chicago with its western suburbs, was closed for several hours by flooding, and the Chicago Transit Authority reported that service was disrupted on at least half of its train routes. Many buses were being rerouted.

The torrential rainfall overnight forced the Chicago area’s main water quality agency to discharge storm sewer overflow into Lake Michigan, closing all of Chicago’s beaches to swimming.

About 30,300 customers were without power in northeastern Illinois on Saturday afternoon, the utility Commonwealth Edison said.

The National Weather Service issued severe weather alerts for many areas in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, and flood watches for dozens of counties.

A tornado touched down Friday night near the town of Indianola in central Iowa, damaging property but causing no injuries.

Dan Sheets of the weather service said that over the last three days, 6 to 10 inches of rain had fallen in the northeastern corner of Iowa.

In Wisconsin, flash-flood warnings were still in effect for four counties. Milwaukee County was one of a dozen counties under flood warnings.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency Friday after rains flooded homes and opened sinkholes in Milwaukee.