Source AP ©

Severe storms take 4 lives in southeastern Minnesota

Severe storms attacked upper Midwest during the night with as much as a foot (30 centimeters) of rain, causing flooding that washed away bridges and roads and killed at least four people.

Part of Winona and smaller towns in southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin were evacuated, officials reported.

Rushing floods in Minnesota killed two people in their vehicle near Stockton and two others in vehicles near Witoka, said Bob Reinert, the Winona County administrator and spokesman for the county's emergency operations center.

"They apparently just drove off the edge of the pavement, and with the floodwaters just were unable to get out of the vehicle," he said, adding floodwaters opened up a 30-foot (9-meter) gully where the road used to be.

Houston County authorities were investigating reports of two additional fatalities, one near Houston and one near La Crescent, and Winona County authorities were looking for three people reported missing.

National Guard Capt. Paul Rickert of the National Guard says 88 soldiers and two helicopterwww.draves.coms were sent to Winona to help with security around the small cities of Elba, Stockton, and Pickwick. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty visited the area Sunday and declared a state of emergency in six counties.

Across the Mississippi in Wisconsin, up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain triggered a mudslide that pushed a house onto state Highway 35 in Vernon County, said Wisconsin Emergency Management spokeswoman Lori Getter. No injuries were reported.

"They've been pulling people out of stalled cars, and evacuating them out of their homes," Getter said, adding that the Wisconsin National Guard was placed on standby.

Nearly 80 people living near small dams in Vernon County were evacuated, Getter said. The Pine Valley West Nursing Home in the Richland Center area of Wisconsin was evacuated, its 18 patients taken to another nursing home, and six patients were moved out of another nursing home in the region, she said.

Numerous roads and bridges were washed out or closed in both states Sunday and several towns were evacuated, officials said.

"In our situation we've evacuated the city of Stockton, which is probably the hardest hit," Reinert said in Minnesota. Other small cities were also evacuated as well as low-lying portions of Winona, he said.

Residents of downtown Gays Mills, Wisconsin, were taken to a fire station, and a state of emergency was in effect there.

Five cars of a 65-car train derailed outside Goose Island, Wisconsin, and the surrounding area was evacuated, Getter said. One car that tipped over contained acid, but hazardous materials teams did not detect any leaks, she said.

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