Swollen rivers began to recede today in parts of the Midwest, allowing hundreds of people to return home, while high school students in Fort Wayne, Ind., were excused from class to join a 24-hour effort to sandbag the gorged Maumee River.
Residents of Amherst, N.Y., returned to their flooded homes and authorities kept watch on the rising Tonawanda Creek.
About 500 people were forced out by flooding that made the Buffalo suburb "look like the Venice of North America," Supervisor John Sharpe said.
The combination of snow and rain washed out roads in southern Illinois, isolating hundreds of rural residents and halting mail and fuel delivery.
"In the Wildcat Bluff or Hell's Neck area south of Vienna and West Vienna there are another 75 to 100 people affected," said Robert Pippins, a coordinator for the Emergency Services and Disaster Agency. "They dumped 300 tons of gravel on one road in the Hell's Neck area and it just disappeared."
About 400 residents of Elkhart County, Ind., began to return home and cleanup was under way in northeastern Oklahoma, where floodwaters forced more than 300 families to flee during the weekend and caused an estimated $2.5 million in damage.
Flood warnings remained in effect for several rivers in northern Indiana, western New York and northern Ohio.
200 Stay Away
About 200 people stayed away from their houses along the Maumee River in Defiance, Ohio, even though the river dropped a foot from the 19.4-foot crest.
In Indiana, the Maumee and St. Joseph rivers were still slowly rising, but the St. Marys had begun to fall.
In Fort Wayne, where 1982 floods caused $50 million in damage, a five-block stretch of Clinton Street, one of downtown's busiest, was closed and high schools called off class so students could sandbag the Maumee.
"I did it back in '82," student Teresa Anderson said. "It's fun. I'd rather be doing something than sitting home watching TV."
"I've never experienced a volunteer effort like I've seen here. Truckloads of kids get right in line and start throwing sandbags," mayoral assistant Amy Ahlersmeyer said.
"All we are doing is maintain and increase the efforts to sandbag," she said. "It will still be a 24-hour effort to keep some homes from being flooded."