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As Storms Rip Through Upper Midwest, Wisconsin Gov. Declares Emergency in 8 Counties

Flooding damaged roads and bridges in Wisconsin and tornadoes were reported in Minnesota

Storms carrying tornadoes, torrential rain and powerful winds damaged homes, deposited a snowplow in a tree and flooded highways in north-central Minnesota and northern Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency Tuesday in eight counties after the heavy rains caused flooding, power outages and damage to roads and bridges. The counties included in the declaration are Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Price, Sawyer and Washburn.

Walker said he is instructing the Wisconsin National Guard and all state agencies to help those affected by the storms.

A tornado in the area of Litchfield, Minnesota, damaged up to 20 homes Monday, authorities said. Audrey Schoenberg took shelter at a restaurant in Litchfield, after the tornado flipped her home off its foundation.

"I'm numb. I'm numb. I don't know really what I do feel right now. It's quite a shock to see that everything is gone," she said.

Keith Johnson, the mayor of Litchfield about 70 miles west of Minneapolis, said there was serious damage, but that no one was injured.

"I've lived in this town 52 years and I've never seen a storm like this in our community," Johnson said.

Diane Kelbing told KARE-TV that she and her husband raced to their mobile home park shelter when they heard the tornado warning siren.

"Well, the garage is gone, the shed is gone, the snowmobile trailer is gone. We've got a snowplow in the tree," Kelbing said.

Fifty residents were removed from the Hilltop Health Care Center in nearby Watkins after the home lost part of its roof. The American Red Cross said it is assisting the evacuees.

Law enforcement also reported a tornado touchdown around 6:30 p.m. Monday, 3 miles east of Rockville, in Stearns County, Minnesota, according to the National Weather Service.

The storms also washed out sections of highways in northern Wisconsin and closed other roads.

Wisconsin emergency officials said in a news release 33 people were trapped on Michigan Island in Lake Superior. The release didn't offer any other details but said as of midmorning 20 people had been rescued and rescue efforts were still underway.

A Wisconsin Emergency Management spokeswoman referred questions about the situation to the Iron County Sheriff's Department. A message left with that agency wasn't immediately returned.

The storms also damaged or destroyed 85 boats at Saxon Harbor in Iron County, state emergency officials said. The National Weather Service reported nearly 10 inches of rain near Saxon, nearly 8 inches of rain near Siren and 7.5 inches near Cable.

The Ashland County Sheriff's Office urged against travel in the county because many local roads were flooded. Sections of U.S. Highway 2 and state Highway 13 south of Highbridge were closed Tuesday.

The National Weather Service said more flooding was likely in northern Wisconsin, where rivers and creeks will continue to rise over the next two days. Areas around Danbury to Minong, Hayward, Ashland and Hurley are expected to experience the most significant flooding.

In Minnesota, the storms also generated a deluge of heavy rain causing the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office to advise against travel late Monday because of flooding. In St. Cloud, powerful rain flooded streets and left some motorists stranded in high water. In a Baxter industrial park, a foot of water covered the roadways. The National Weather Service reported 11 inches of rain fell in the east-central Minnesota city of Sturgeon Lake.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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