9 dead, 4 missing in central US storm

(AP) - Flooding forced hundreds of people to flee their homes and closed scores of roads Wednesday across the nation's midsection as a storm system linked to nine deaths poured as much as a foot of rain on the region.

The National Weather Service posted flood and flash flood warnings from Texas to Pennsylvania on Wednesday, and evacuations were under way in parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Ohio.

Heavy rain began falling Monday and just kept coming. Just over a foot had fallen at Mountain Home, Ark., and about 10 inches had fallen by Wednesday morning in southeast Missouri's Cape Girardeau County, where officials said street flooding marooned some residents in their homes. The weather service said 6.2 inches had fallen at Evansville, Ind.

Scott and Marilyne Peterson and their son, Scott Jr., scurried out of their home near Piedmont after seeing water rise 3 feet in five minutes. They had just enough time to grab essentials and their dog.

"You didn't have time to worry," Scott Peterson Sr. said. "You just grab what you can and go and you're glad the people are OK."

The rain in Missouri was expected to finally come to an end Wednesday as the weather system crawled toward the northeast.

Four deaths were linked to the flooding in Missouri, and five people were killed in a highway wreck in heavy rain in Kentucky. Searches were under way in Texas for a teenager washed down a drainage pipe and in Missouri for a man missing in a creek, and two people were missing in Arkansas after their vehicles were swept away by rushing water.

An estimated 300 houses and businesses were flooded in Piedmont, a town of 2,000 residents on McKenzie Creek. Dozens of people were rescued by boat.

Outside St. Louis, the Meramec River was expected to crest 10 to 15 feet above flood stage at some spots, threatening towns like Eureka and Valley Park.

Flooding was widespread in Arkansas, washing out some highways and leading to evacuations of residents in parts of Baxter, Madison, Sharp counties, said Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. The Highway and Transportation Department reported state roads blocked in 16 counties.

In northeast Arkansas, the Spring River was rising at a rate of 6 inches per hour and carrying debris that included full-size trees.

Two motorists were missing in Arkansas after their vehicles were washed away by high water, authorities said.

Authorities in southwest Missouri were searching for another man reported swept away by rushing water. "He was going down the creek screaming and hollering," Lawrence County emergency management chief Mike Rowe said.

Emergency officials in Mesquite, Texas, searched for a 14-year-old boy apparently swept away as he and a friend played in a creek. The friend swam to safety, authorities said.

Up the Ohio Valley, widespread flooding was reported in parts of southwest Indiana and parts of Ohio.

"We've got water rising everywhere," said Jeff Korb, president of the Vanderbugh County, Ind., commissioners. "We've got more than 70 roads under water."

Rescuers in southern Indiana plucked a man from a tree in the Ohio River after his truck was swept away. Knight Township Fire Chief Chris Wathen said the man was conscious but showing signs of hypothermia.

"It's hard for anybody to say how long he could have survived there," Wathen said. "But I do think it was fair to say he was within minutes of losing his life."

Residents of South Lebanon, Ohio - a town of about 2,800 people - were urged to get out as the Little Miami River was expected to crest at 28 feet, 11 feet above flood stage and the third highest level since measurements began in 1889, said Frank Young, emergency management director in Warren County.

"That would put half of South Lebanon under water," Young said.

Key roads were closed in the Cincinnati area, where water 4 feet deep was reported in businesses in the suburb of Sharonwille, police said. Police contacted at least nine businesses and warned them not to open Wednesday. Northeast of Cincinnati, two members of a cross-country team had to be rescued from a rain-swollen creek after falling in.

The Ohio River at Cincinnati was expected to rise about 2 feet above flood stage by Friday, flooding some neighborhoods outside the city.

Missouri state officials said three people died there, including one man whose car was swept 600 feet down a flooded stream. The Southeast Missourian newspaper in Cape Girardeau reported a fourth death. Kentucky State Police said five people died in heavy rain Wednesday on Interstate 65 in south-central Kentucky when a tractor-trailer, a pickup truck and a van crashed.

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