Flooding Threatens Northeastern US (continued)
com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
(Sep. 8 2011) Pennsylvania orders 65,000 to evacuate flood zone
Susquehanna River is expected to crest at 41 feet later on Thursday
As the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dump heavy rain on the Northeast, officials in northeastern Pennsylvania are calling for a mandatory evacuation of communities along the Susquehanna River - an area that was inundated in the historic Agnes flood of 1972.
The order affects roughly 65,000 residents.
Luzerne County Management Agency official Frank Lasiewicki told The Associated Press Thursday the river is projected to crest at nearly 41 feet between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET Thursday - the same height as the levee system protecting riverfront communities including Wilkes-Barre and Kingston.
Residents were ordered to leave by 4 p.m. Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton said residents should prepare for an extended evacuation of 72 hours and advised them to take clothing, food and prescription medicine. He also asked city businesses to close their doors by noon.
The evacuations come as Lee's remnants caused havoc around the Northeast on Thursday, bringing floods that cut off major highways and caused some schools to open late or not at all.
At least three people have died.
Police in Derry Township, Pa., said an elderly man who was trying to bail water out of his basement was killed when the house's foundation collapsed Wednesday.
Lancaster County Emergency Management Director Randy Gockley said a motorist trapped in a vehicle drowned early Thursday morning in Elizabeth Township, Pa. Gockley said responders found between 3 and 4 feet of water on the roadway as the nearby Hammer Creek went over its banks.
Another death was confirmed Thursday morning by Gockley.
The National Weather Service predicted the rain would continue to fall heavily across the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states through Thursday with anywhere from 4 to 7 more inches falling and up to 10 inches in isolated pockets.
The NWS issued a string of flash flood warnings early Thursday for parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
A flash flood warning for parts of Maryland said that "although rain has become light ... a very dangerous situation still exists" in the affected areas.
The warning for New York, due to last until 11 a.m. ET, said rapid flooding of streams, creeks and poor drainage areas was likely in the affected locations.
'Very severe' flooding
An earlier warning issued Thursday for New York said that flooding "is ongoing and is very severe in many places with numerous evacuations."
Story: Tropical Storm Nate spins off Mexico's coast
"Flooding will continue to worsen overnight as the rain continues. Rainfall totals for Wednesday through early Thursday morning will range from 5 to 12 inches across much of the warning area by 6 a.m.," the warning said.
"Travel will be hazardous through the early morning hours and is not advised except for emergencies," it added.
A notice posted on the Broome County website detail areas of Binghamton, N.Y., under a mandatory evacuation order with flooding expected from the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers.
It urged people to drive to a "safe location." Buses were also being sent to pick up evacuees, who were being taken to Broome County Airport.
"Please remain calm and drive in a safe and orderly fashion," the notice said, adding that anyone unable to evacuate or facing a life-threatening emergency should call 911.
The pressconnects.com website, part of the Gannett media company, reported that Broome County's director of emergency services Brett Chellis warned late Wednesday that people should "be prepared for the worst."
"Binghamton is starting to evacuate now," he added, saying 10,000 people were under mandatory evacuation. "People need to be ready to move."
NBC News reported that Wednesday's rainfall boosted the total for 2011 in Binghamton to 49.86 inches, breaking the annual record set in 2006 with some 115 days left to go in the year. Records began in 1951.
The National Weather Service said the Susquehanna River was expected to crest in Binghamton at 26.2 feet Thursday evening, NBC News reported. At 25.6 feet, the river will overtop downtown Binghamton's flood walls.
The Weather Channel said the river had risen 18 feet in 24 hours.
Dam at risk of 'imminent failure'
An NWS warning issued at 3:29 a.m. ET said the Elk Lake Dam in Susquehanna County, northeast Pennsylvania, was at risk of "imminent failure." It urged people living below the dam to "move to higher ground immediately."
Flash flooding across a wide swath of Pennsylvania shut down roads, closed some schools early and forced evacuations.
"The same areas are getting hit repeatedly" by rain, said Larry Nierenberg, a national weather service spokesman who monitors an area that includes Greater Philadelphia and most of New Jersey.
New York positioned rescue workers, swift-water boats and helicopters with hoists to respond quickly in the event of flash flooding.
"Now it's getting on my last nerves," said Carol Slater, 53, of Huntersfield, N.Y., on the northern edge of New York's Catskill Mountains and just outside of hard-hit Prattsville.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was installing flood control gates in several locations, according to a statement from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who planned to tour the affected region on Thursday.
Numerous sections of the New York Thruway, including exit ramps, flooded Wednesday night and motorists were advised to take alternate roads, but many of them, too, were covered with water.
On Wednesday afternoon, Prattsville was cut off, its main roads covered with water as public works crews tried to dredge the creeks to alleviate the flooding.
"Businesses and residential areas were devastated before," Wayne Speenburgh, chairman of the Greene County Legislature, said of Prattsville. "Downtown, there's nobody living because there's no homes to live in."
'Lots of stress'
Flooding also led to voluntary evacuations in the Catskills town of Shandaken, Rotterdam Junction near Albany, and a section of Schenectady along the Mohawk River. Some schools in the Hudson Valley north of New York City closed or delayed start times.
Patrick Darling said he and wife Dawn are trying to keep their sense of humor while dealing with a second week of flooding.
"We have stress, lots of stress," he said after using shovels to clear mud and debris from his neighbors' homes. "We've been shoveling our stress out."
In Maryland, firefighters were among those who had to be rescued Wednesday as storms flooded roads, stranding drivers who had to be pulled from rushing water and pushing residents from their homes.
A swift-water rescue boat capsized in the Patapsco River near Catonsville as firefighters responded to rescue calls near the Howard County line, Baltimore County spokeswoman Elise Armacost said, adding that all firefighters were later accounted for.
A flood watch was also in effect through Thursday afternoon in Vermont. Parts of the state are still recovering from flooding from the remnants of Irene, which was a tropical storm by the time it swept over the area.
Swift water rescue teams are on call, and residents should be ready to evacuate if rivers rise fast, said Vermont Emergency Management spokesman Mark Bosma.
Irene hit upstate New York and Vermont particularly hard, with at least 12 deaths in those areas and dozens of highways damaged or washed out. Several communities in Vermont were cut off entirely and required National Guard airdrops to get supplies.