A home near Lake Delton, Wis., was damaged when flood waters breached the bank lake Monday. More than 30 cm of rain has fallen on the U.S. Midwest since Saturday. (Steve Apps/Associated Press)

Communities across the U.S. Midwest began cleaning up Tuesday after days of devastating rain caused flash floods and dam bursts, inundating towns and sweeping away homes and possessions.

At least 10 people died during the severe weather, which began Saturday and continued through Monday.

In some places, more than 32 centimetres of rain has fallen since Saturday.

For the second time in less than a year, all 625 people in the village of Gays Mills, Wis., were forced from their homes because of flash flooding from the nearby Kickapoo River.

An Associated Press report described the flooded hamlet as a "grid of canals with cars submerged up to their windows and parking lots looking like lakes."

Flash flooding also engulfed the village last August, washing away houses and possessions.

"I can't believe this is happening again," said Liz Klekamp, 23, who described how she grabbed her cat and fled Monday morning when water came pouring into her house. "It's really, truly sad."

Homes ripped from foundations

Across the Midwest, officials on Tuesday were to start tallying the damage from the flooding.

An engineering team from the Wisconsin National Guard went to the resort community of Lake Delton, 120 kilometres west of Milwaukee, to begin repairs after an embankment along the artificial lake gave way, unleashing a powerful current that ripped homes off their foundations.

The 100-hectare lake emptied into the nearby Wisconsin River on Monday, washing out part of a highway, sweeping away three homes and tearing apart two others.

Local resident Don Kubenik, 68, burst into tears after seeing the 2,800-square-foot vacation home he built in 2003 snapped into pieces. The businessman from the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis said he spent every weekend there.

"That house had everything you can imagine and now it's all gone," said Kubenik, who was in West Allis when the lake overflowed. "My boat's gone. The pier's gone. Everything is gone."

In waterlogged Indiana, military crews joined desperate sandbagging operations Monday to hold back streams surging toward record levels, and rushing water breached dams and washed out portions of highways.

By Monday morning, flooding at eight places in central and southern Indiana had eclipsed levels set in the deluge of March 1913, which had been considered Indiana's greatest flood in modern times, said Scott Morlock, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Indiana.

Sweltering in New York City

Much of the U.S. East Coast, meanwhile, was gripped by a heat wave. Heat watches and advisories were in effect Tuesday from North Carolina to Massachusetts, where forecasters said the mercury could reach 38 C. New York City recorded a high of 37 C on Monday.

New York authorities opened 300 cooling centres Monday, said Office of Emergency Management spokesman Chris Gilbride.

Schools in parts of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland closed early as classrooms heated up.

With files from the Associated Press