Storms swamp Milwaukee area

July 23, 2010 at 4:08 PM
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MILWAUKEE, July 23 (UPI) -- Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency Friday following torrential rains that swamped Milwaukee, opening sinkholes and closing the airport.

As much as 11 inches of rain fell in some areas and the region braced for more precipitation Friday in the third round of flooding in the past several weeks. A flash flood watch was in effect through Saturday morning.

Milwaukee County officials said some 2,000 area residents reported flooded basements and manhole covers were reported floating in the streets, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Power was knocked out for 32,000 customers in Milwaukee, Jefferson, Washington and Waukesha counties. By Friday morning, all but 6,000 had been restored.

At least five homes collapsed as a sinkhole opened on the city's east side.

Doyle declared a state of emergency and said he would seek federal assistance.

Two sisters were struck by lightning on Milwaukee's south side and emergency crews rescued a driver after a sinkhole opened and swallowed his Cadillac Escalade. All three were taken to area hospitals.

The National Weather Service said several tornadoes were reported. The violent weather was to be followed by temperatures in the 90s. Relief won't be found at area lakes because they are closed through Sunday due to potential contamination from the storm, officials said

The control tower at Mitchell International Airport closed for about an hour after a tornado warning was issued. The severe weather delayed or canceled dozens of flights and airport operations shut down Thursday night after sections of the airfield and roads flooded. They would remain closed until the water receded, airport officials said.

Because some Milwaukee Public Schools buildings and play fields were flooded, school officials said activities in district buildings were canceled for Friday, including summer school and enrichment programs and recreation activities.

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