LA CROSSE, Wis. — Heavy rains pounded Wisconsin and Minnesota, prompting evacuation orders for about 100 residents in one small Wisconsin town and flash flooding in parts of Minnesota, where people at a council meeting briefly took cover in a basement.
The storms Monday night also caused power outages to about 2,200 customers in the southwest Wisconsin city of La Crosse, according to Xcel Energy, but that number was down to fewer than 1,000 by late Tuesday afternoon. At the outage's peak, 22,500 Xcel Energy customers in Minnesota and Wisconsin were without power. Meanwhile, in southeast Minnesota, powerful winds downed trees and power lines. No injuries have been reported, but emergency responders cleaning up debris and assessing damage are bracing for another round of storms that the National Weather Service said could drop as much as 5 inches of rain in the region Tuesday night into Wednesday.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in six counties, including Fond du Lac, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon and Washington. The declaration is the first step toward requesting federal assistance.
"The same general area is expected to see very heavy rain over the next six to 12 hours, so we anticipate some additional flooding concerns," said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the weather service in College Park, Maryland.
The western counties of La Crosse, Vernon and Monroe have already been particularly hard hit with 5 to 11 inches of rain. In Coon Valley, a town of about 765 people just southeast of La Crosse, emergency responders helped residents evacuate Monday night and into Tuesday morning. People also were evacuated in the villages of La Farge and Readstown on Tuesday, bringing the number of evacuations close to 120, Vernon County spokeswoman Linda Nederlo said. In Vernon County, nearly 40 roads were closed.
Residents at the Bothne House retirement center in Coon Valley had to be evacuated twice — first to the Village Hall and then to a nearby elementary school when water began coming into the hall, the La Crosse Tribune reported.
The weather service said two people were rescued from flood water while camping near the Kickapoo River not far from Rockton in Vernon County. Adams County in south central Wisconsin was under a flash flood warning until early Tuesday morning after up to 7 inches of rain fell.
In central Wisconsin, the National Weather Service reported possible tornado damage in a swath extending from southern Marquette County across Green Lake County and into Fond du Lac County. Storms knocked down trees and power lines in that area Tuesday afternoon. Meteorologist J.J. Wood with the Sullivan National Weather Service said he was not aware of any injuries. The Weather Service will send a survey team to confirm if the damage was caused by a tornado.
The overnight storms largely missed Madison, which is still recovering from last week's storm and flooding. Emergency officials in the capital city were preparing for another round of flooding Tuesday into Wednesday as more storms moved through the area, however. Walker declared a state of emergency in Dane County last week.
In southeastern Minnesota, flash flooding was reported after Houston County received more than 5 inches of rain, the Star Tribune reported. In Red Wing, Minnesota, a city council meeting was delayed Monday night because of heavy rains that had people taking cover in the basement. At the Red Wing Regional Airport, the National Weather Service said wind gusts that reached 82 mph damaged a hangar.
Rain was also heavy enough in the Twin Cities to force rides and stages at the Minnesota State Fair to be evacuated. Fair spokeswoman Danielle Dullinger said people were directed to five weather shelters on the fairgrounds.