MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) – The remnants of Hurricane Ike swept into the Midwest Sunday with powerful winds and flooding that were being blamed for at least 12 deaths. Thousands have been evacuated and hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses lost electrical power.

Cook County in Illinois was placed under a state of emergency as thigh-high water prompted dozens of boat rescues in Chicago.

Hurricane Ike is being blamed for 24 deaths from the rain-battered gulf states to the potent wind and flooding that pounded the Midwest.

Two Indiana men were killed while helping kids escape a ditch in Chesterton, about 35 miles southeast of Chicago, Fire Chief Warren Highwood said. None of the children were injured. One death was reported in Arkansas, where a 29-year-old man was killed when a tree fell on a mobile home as he was preparing to leave, authorities said.

Two deaths in the St. Louis area were blamed on Sunday’s inclement weather. A Ladue woman was struck by a tree limb that fell during the storm, and an elderly man was found dead behind a University City home with a flooded backyard. Authorities suspect the man drowned.

In Tennessee, two men sitting in a golf cart on the 16th hole of a Nashville golf course were killed when a tree fell over on them Sunday morning, fire department spokesman Ricky Taylor said.

Strongs winds were blamed for three deaths in Ohio. Two motorcyclists were killed Sunday when a tree toppled onto them at a state park in southwest Ohio, said state Department of Natural Resources spokesman Jason Fallon. and a woman wan killed when a tree crashed into her home in Hamilton County, just north of Cincinnati.

In Kansas, a volunteer rescue worker who fell into river and was pronounced dead at Wichita hospital and a man was also killed after driving his SUV into deep water in Wichita, officials said.

The remnants of Ike dumped as much as 6 to 8 inches of rain in parts of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, spawned a tornado Arkansas that damaged several buildings, and delivered hurricane-force winds to Ohio, forcing Cincinnati’s main airport to temporarily shut down. Flooding in Missouri closed the street in front of St. Louis’ famed Gateway Arch.

About 40 Indiana National Guard troops were activated Sunday afternoon to assist with the evacuation of up to 5,000 residents and to help safeguard property in the northwest town of Munster, Staff Sgt. Jeff Lowry said in a news release.

More than 680,000 Duke Energy customers were without power Sunday night in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky in the biggest outage in the company’s history, said Duke Energy spokeswoman Kathy Meinke.

“It’s going to be quite extensive,” Meinke said. “Over 90 percent of our customers are without service.”

More than 354,000 customers were without power in central Ohio, said American Electric Power spokesman Jeff Rennie.

In Chicago, Saturday’s rainfall of 6.64 inches at O’Hare International Airport set a record for a single day. The previous record was 6.49 inches, recorded on Aug. 14, 1987.

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger declared a countywide state of emergency Sunday, and officials said they would ask Gov. Rod Blagojevich to issue a disaster declaration for Chicago and Cook County.

In Missouri, winds as high as 60 mph and torrential rains of up to 7 inches raised new concerns about swelling rivers. Major flooding was expected along the Mississippi from Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau by late this week, the National Weather Service said.

Strong winds prompted the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to evacuate its control tower and cancel about 40 flights before resuming air traffic, airport spokesman Ted Bushelman said.

Strong gusts ripped off part of the roof from a Delta Airlines hangar and damaged another airport building, Bushelman said. He said winds were up to 74 mph.

In Middletown, Ohio, gusts knocked down a tree, which landed on a nearby house and suspended a truck about 8 feet in the air, resident Barbara Ray said.

Warren County emergency officials said their 911 center was shut down, likely due to wind damage.

Associated Press reporters Tom Coyne in Indiana, Daniel J. Yovich in Chicago and Meghan Barr in Ohio contributed to this report.

AP-ES-09-14-08 2234EDT

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