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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Storms bring deadly flood to Pittsburgh; tornado hits Wisconsin (Reuters)

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – Severe storms were expected in the Midwest on Saturday and then to add to weekend weather woes in the Northeast, where flash flooding killed at least three people in Pittsburgh on Friday.

Heavy rains submerged cars in flood water that was nine feet deep in places in Pittsburgh, authorities said.

The three victims, identified as a woman and two children, died after their vehicle was pinned against a tree on Washington Boulevard near the Allegheny River.

They were unable to escape, Michael Huss, the city's public safety director, said at a news conference late Friday.

"We have crews that are continuing to search," he said.

Some 18 cars were stranded in the flooding and 11 people had to be rescued, according to local media reports.

Rescue crews used inflatable rafts to reach stranded drivers. Power was out to 8,400 customers.

Earlier, the National Weather Service had issued a flash flood watch for Allegheny County as storms pounded the area, bringing three to four inches of rain, according to the NWS.

Nearly half of all flood fatalities are vehicle related, the NWS warned early Saturday morning in a flood advisory.

"As little as six inches of water will cause you to lose control of your vehicle," the NWS stated. "Two feet of water will carry most vehicles away."

Saturday no active flash flood warnings were in effect from the National Weather Service, but meteorologists for The Weather Channel forecast more storms from the Great Lakes to the Central Plains for the day and into the night.

One man died as storms and a suspected tornado roared across northern Wisconsin on Friday night, cutting off power to around 2,000 homes, the Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management said.

The man was staying in a rented trailer home in the path of the storm, which downed trees in a mile-long swath just north of Wausaukee, 65 miles north of Green Bay, a Marinette County sheriff's spokesman said.

"At around 5 p.m. we had an apparent tornado in the Wausaukee area. We have one fatality," said Lori Getter, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management. She identified the person who died as a middle-aged man.

Friday's storm came three months after a massive tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri, killing 155 people in the deadliest tornado to hit the United States in over 60 years.

Damaging winds and hail were the primary threats for cities like St. Louis, Detroit and Chicago on Saturday, according to

Saturday morning, the NWS Doppler radar indicated a fast-moving thunderstorm near Chicago capable of creating "half dollar sized hail," "damaging winds in excess of 60 mph," "deadly lightning," and "very heavy rain."

Saturday's thunderstorm threat will shift to the Northeast Sunday.

(Additional reporting by John Rondy in Milwaukee and Cynthia Johnston in Las Vegas; Writing by Molly O'Toole; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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