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Wind Damages Nebraska Capitol; Floods Hit Midwest

April 08, 2001|From Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. — Wind up to 79 mph ripped across the upper Midwest on Saturday, overturning tractor-trailer rigs, knocking out power and peeling a 2-ton ribbon of copper sheeting off the roof of Nebraska's Capitol.

Heavy rain combined with melting snow to flood homes, roads and basements in South Dakota and Minnesota; flood warnings were in effect in North Dakota.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Wind gusts measured at nearly 65 mph ripped a long section of original copper roofing off part of Nebraska's Capitol in Lincoln, said Mike Rindone, chief architect and project manager for the Capitol's restoration project.

About a ton of the sheeting remained atop the building, but the other half draped over the side, Rindone said.

In Omaha, wind damaged homes, businesses and a church steeple. Power outages were reported throughout eastern Nebraska.

The wind overturned tractor-trailer rigs in parts of Minnesota and Iowa. Xcel Energy in Minnesota said about 12,000 customers lost power in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. A gust of 79 mph was measured at Fairmont, Minn. The wind also knocked out power in parts of Wisconsin, damaged one house and destroyed two barns.

About 5,000 customers were blacked out in Iowa, said Alliant Energy spokesman John Ruff. "For every customer we get on as the storm system moves east, it knocks out another customer," he said.

Mike Jones, a spokesman with the Omaha Public Power District, said about 2,000 customers were without power Saturday night.

In North Dakota, where cities already had been reinforcing levees and piling sandbags in anticipation of floods caused by melting snow, up to 2 inches of rain fell from late Friday into early Saturday. The National Weather Service posted flash flood warnings for counties in the eastern part of the state.

"Everybody should understand we're into the major flooding category, but it should be manageable," said Dennis Walaker, Fargo's public works operations manager.

Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness declared an emergency Saturday, authorizing the Army Corps of Engineers to start building dikes. The Red River was already above flood stage of 17 feet and was forecast to crest at 35 feet by week's end.

At Grand Forks, N.D., the Red River is expected to crest at 44 feet on April 18 or 19; it was already over its 28-foot flood stage. In 1997, the river peaked at more than 54 feet and inundated the city.

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