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Severe floods hit Midwest; areas downriver get ready

By Moni Basu, CNN
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Severe floods hit Midwest
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Torrential rains are causing rivers to overflow their banks
  • Towns across Minnesota and Wisconsin are submerged
  • Schools and major roads have been forced to close
  • Major rivers, including the Mississippi, could surge over the weekend
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Share your photos and videos of the Midwest flooding with CNN iReport. See more coverage on the flooding from CNN affiliate KARE

(CNN) -- Parts of the Midwest battled severe flooding Friday as torrential rains caused rivers to overflow their banks and submerged entire towns.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa and warned that waters gushing down bloated rivers and creeks could cause major rivers, including the Mississippi, to surge over the weekend.

The governors of Minnesota and Wisconsin declared states of emergency in flood-affected counties as local emergency officials ordered the evacuation of residents in several towns.

No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Schools closed. So did major roads as towns drowned in the downpours. Residents used buckets and plastic garbage cans to remove water from their houses and joined local emergency crews to help sandbag their towns.

In some places, only the roofs of cars and buildings could be seen from the sky, And tall, green conifers jutted out from murky water.

In Arcadia, Wisconsin, about 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Gov. Jim Doyle issued a statement saying that National Guard troops were patrolling the area and working with state emergency officials to assess the damage and bring about a quick recovery.

Black River Falls, Wisconsin, was also under a state of emergency. The Red Cross set up a shelter at a church for evacuees.

In Minnesota, 18 counties were placed under flood warnings. The same area suffered from massive flooding in 2007.

The town of Minnesota Lake, named after a body of water in that state, was just that Friday after 11 inches of rain fell there, according to CNN affiliate KARE.

All Jane McGregor said she could hear in her basement was: "squish, squish, squish." She and her family rushed to pull up the carpeting and take it upstairs for safekeeping.

In some parts of the town, pools of water were 5 feet deep. Firetrucks pumped water -- as much as 2,500 gallons a minute -- from one side of the street and shot it out on another, KARE reported.

"It's a serious situation," Doug Neville, spokesman for the Minnesota Public Safety Department, told CNN. "We're watching it closely. We could still see record levels of flooding."

One of the hardest hit towns was Owatonna, where the Straight River was surging, Neville said. City officials and residents desperately put out sandbags in hopes of keeping more water at bay.

At least 11 roads were closed, according to the city's website. And at Owatonna Senior High School, this weekend's homecoming events were put on hold until a drier day.

 
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