A child has died and two adults are missing after they were swept away in a drainage ditch in Milwaukee following severe thunderstorms that brought heavy rains and damaging winds to a wide swath of the Midwest and parts of the South, authorities said.
Milwaukee Fire Department Chief Aaron Lipski said Tuesday afternoon that the child, identified only as a 10-year-old boy, was found in a nearby river. The child would have turned 11 on July 4. His family has been notified, and the search for the other missing victims is ongoing.
“It’s clearly understood by all here that this is a horrible day,” Lipski said. “But it’s not going to ever be as horrible as it is for the family that you see there. I ask that you respect their sorrow and their privacy.”
Witnesses told police that at about 6:30 p.m. Monday, a boy fell into the ditch, which carries water through a tunnel to the Kinnikinic River. According to police, two men, ages 34 and 37, entered the water in an attempt to rescue the boy, but all three were swept away.
“In that tunnel, we have no idea what was going on in that tunnel,” said Assistant Fire Chief DeWayne Smoots.
Crews didn’t enter the tunnel due to dangerous conditions, and instead sent a drone inside in an attempt to locate them, officials said. Names of the missing weren’t immediately released. Police said all three knew each other, but didn’t elaborate.
Family members told WDJT that a boy was playing ball with his father when the son somehow wound up in the water and the dad went in after him. The family told the station another adult family member jumped in, too.
The water was deep and fast-flowing following Monday’s severe storms, which also caused damage and power outages in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. And the storms continued to pack a punch as they rolled into West Virginia early Tuesday, where numerous roads were closed by downed trees and power lines.
The storms came as high temperatures and humidity settled in over states stretching through parts of the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and east to the Carolinas. More than 100 million people were facing a combination of heat advisories, excessive heat warnings and excessive heat watches through Wednesday following record weekend temperatures in parts of the West and the Southwest.
In Odessa, Texas, where temperatures hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday, a water main break has impacted service to 165,000 residents and prompted a disaster declaration in the city, Gov. Greg Abbott said. Officials said it could take until Wednesday for service to be restored.
In Illinois, a supercell thunderstorm with winds in excess of 80 mph toppled trees and damaged power lines Monday evening as it left a trail of damage across the Chicago area and into northwestern Indiana, the National Weather Service said. Tens of thousands were without power.
Numerous reports of wind damage were reported along the storm’s path, with Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport recording an 84-mph wind gust, the weather service said. Crews planned to assess the storm damage Tuesday to determine if any tornadoes touched down.
In Bellwood in Chicago’s west suburbs, village officials said winds stripped the roof off an apartment building, injuring a young woman who was hospitalized after being hit by falling debris but was expected to be fine.
“We just heard people screaming that the roof was off, get out, get out,” resident Larhonda Neal told WLS-TV.
In northwestern Indiana, the weather service reported storm damage in Ogden Dunes and said hail 1.5 inches in diameter pummeled the Lake County town of New Chicago on Monday night.
In northeastern Indiana, the weather service said a 98-mph wind gust was recorded at Fort Wayne International Airport, the strongest wind the airport has ever recorded, eclipsing the previous record of a 91-mph gust recorded on June 30, 2012. Extensive storm damage and downed trees were reported in Fort Wayne, where winds ripped siding and insulation from the hangar of SkyWest, an aircraft maintenance company southwest of the Fort Wayne airport’s terminal and runways, exposing the planes inside, WANE-TV reported.
In a tweet Tuesday, the airport said, “While there is an abundance of damage, all staff are safe and no injuries were reported.”