Strickland Anticipates Federal Disaster Declaration

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Ted Strickland surveyed the heavily flooded village of Ottawa and urged the federal government to declare a major disaster in north-central Ohio.

Strickland toured the region with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials Sunday as residents removed piles of waterlogged carpet, couches and upended refrigerators from their homes and tried to clean up from the flooding.

"It's difficult to exaggerate or embellish upon what's happened here. It's absolutely devastating," Strickland said.

The governor said the federal declaration could come as early as Monday, providing financial aid to parts of Ohio inundated by a week of powerful storms and record flooding blamed for at least 18 deaths across the upper Midwest.

Bush last week signed disaster declarations for parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin after FEMA assessments there, clearing the way for residents to apply for assistance, such as grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans.

Monday morning, scattered showers and thunderstorms still dogged the Upper Mississippi Valley, but Ohio and the rest of the hard hit Great Lakes region resumed their cleanup under clear skies.

The electricity was back on for most of the more than 1 million customers who lost power last week. In Illinois, 7,700 ComEd customers were still without power Monday morning, down from more than 630,000; in southern Michigan, utility crews had restored power to all but about 6,000 of 427,000 homes and businesses left without electricity two days earlier.

Amtrak announced that its passenger rail service between Minnesota's Twin Cities and La Crosse, Wis., was back to normal after storm damaged track near Winona, Minn., was repaired.

A busy three-mile stretch of Interstate 80/94, closed since Friday because of flooding, was also able to reopen Sunday night in northern Indiana, state officials said. Most of the state's high-running rivers and streams were expected to be below flood stage on Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

"At this point, the water is falling pretty steadily," meteorologist Mark Steinwedel said.

The weather service confirmed that tornadoes touched down in six areas of Michigan along an 80-mile line Friday, destroying at least 250 homes and businesses in the southeast Michigan town of Fenton.

"Fenton sustained the greatest amount of damage where the tornado path widened to approximately one-quarter mile - including the snapping and uprooting of hundreds of trees," the weather service said in a statement.

In the West, meanwhile, the remnants of what was once Hurricane Dean soaked Southern California on Sunday afternoon, with up to three inches of rain falling on the deserts of southwest San Diego County.

Motorists were stranded in flooded washes alongside a road in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and lightning-struck power lines left 14,300 customers without power for almost five hours, a spokeswoman for San Diego Gas & Electric said. About 1,800 remained without power Sunday afternoon.