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Storms in Wisconsin, Minnesota prompt evacuations, flooding

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Flood damage seen on a road Tuesday afternoon
Flood damage seen on a road Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, along County Highway P at Coon Creek near Coon Valley, Wis.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Updated: 8:18 p.m. | Posted: 6:37 a.m.

Heavy rains pounded Wisconsin and Minnesota Monday night, 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 National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wis., says as much as a foot of rain has fallen in a swath from near Lanesboro east to the Wisconsin Dells. 

The storms also caused power outages to about 2,200 customers in the southwest Wisconsin city of La Crosse, according to Xcel Energy. 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.

Brooklynn Harmon of Saukville, Wis., carries food.
Brooklynn Harmon of Saukville, Wis., carries food from her grandmother's garden Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, in the town of Trenton, Wis.
Nicholas Dettmann | West Bend Daily News via AP

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. In Vernon County, nearly 40 roads were closed and authorities there, have been inundated with 911 calls. Rescue personnel in Coon Valley have been asking for boats, ropes and volunteers to help homeowners escape the rising waters, according to the La Crosse Tribune.

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.

Authorities near La Crosse were evacuating a mobile home park where the water was reported to be chest high, and a pair of campers on the Kickapoo River were pulled from neck-deep water in Rockton, about 30 miles southeast of La Crosse.

Minnesota was also reporting heavy rain, with nearly 7 inches near Spring Grove and nearly 6 inches in the small town of Mabel, just across the state line from Decorah, Iowa.

There were no reports of injuries yet.

Flooding has closed Interstate 90/94 in the Mauston, Wis., area, according to the Twin Cities National Weather Service.

At the Red Wing Airport, powerful winds flattened a hangar that was under construction, pulled the roofs off two other hangars and damaged two planes.

In Goodhue County, sheriff's officials say a grain bin was blown across a highway, a shed destroyed and trees were damaged. 

In the Twin Cities Monday night, rides and free stages at the Minnesota State Fair were evacuated as severe storms rolled through the metro. Fair spokesperson Danielle Dullinger says people were told to seek safety at one of five severe weather shelters on the fairgrounds.

Correction (Aug. 28, 2018): The city of Coon Valley was misidentified in an earlier version of this story.