Source AP ©

Thunderstorms flood Minnesota and Wisconsin

Pitiless thunderstorms dropped up to a foot of rain in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, bursting riverbanks, engulfing cars and forcing rescuers to pluck residents from rooftops.

Six deaths were reported in Minnesota and search and rescue operations were expected Monday across the hard-hit southeastern part of the state. Flash floods also killed at least six people in Oklahoma and one in Texas as the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin crashed through the South.

Among the hundreds of people evacuated in Minnesota were several who spent a harrowing night on their rooftops, including Sean Wehlage and his girlfriend.

"I cannot describe the terror of it all. I'm just glad to be alive," said Wehlage, 29, who climbed onto the roof of his one-story home in Stockton.

In Winona County, one couple died when their vehicle plunged into a 30-foot (9-meter) gully in a road near Witoka while another couple died when their vehicle was swept into a ditch.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered 240 National Guard soldiers to help with flood-relief and security. The governor declared a state of emergency in six counties and the Army Corps of Engineers was using pumps and generators to avoid levee breeches along the Root and Mississippi rivers.

With more rain in the forecast, the Houston City Council ordered an evacuation of the town of 995 people. Stockton, with 803 residents, was evacuated, as well, and evacuations also took place in Pickwick and Elba and parts of Winona, which sits on the Mississippi River.

Houston County Sheriff's dispatcher Dwayne Beckman said 14 roads and highways had been closed, bridges were washed out and mudslides were reported countywide.

Houston County authorities were keeping a wary eye on the dike that protects that small city from the rising Root River. According to Beckman, the river was at 19 feet (5.8 meters) "and the dike is good to 20 feet (6.10 meters)."

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