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Nor'easter Pummels East Coast, Leaves Travelers Stranded at Airports

A hard-blowing nor'easter brought relentless rain to the East Coast early Monday, stranding airline passengers at airports nationwide.

Posted Updated

WAYNE PARRY (Associated Press Writer)
TRENTON, N.J. — A hard-blowing nor'easter brought relentless rain to the East Coast early Monday, flooding rivers, stranding airline passengers and prompting evacuations from New Jersey to West Virginia.

Cars were stuck in the water on numerous roadways, hundreds of flights were canceled and power was knocked out for thousands across the region.

Officials at Raleigh-Durham International Airport said several flights headed to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Charlotte were cancelled due to weather on Sunday. One woman claimed the pilot did not notify passengers that their flight had been diverted to RDU International until minutes before they were scheduled to land.

Travelers are advised to check their flight schedule with their airline before heading to the airport, officials said.

The governors of West Virginia and New Jersey declared states of emergency, giving them extra powers to handle storm-related problems. New Jersey's Acting Gov. Richard Codey and Connecticut's Gov. M. Jodi Rell urged residents to stay home from work and off the roads, if possible.

One person was killed by a tornado in South Carolina, and two died in car accidents - one in upstate New York and one in Connecticut. The storm rattled the Gulf states Friday and Saturday with violent thunderstorms, raked Texas with at least two tornadoes and was blamed for five deaths before heading northeast.

The storm gave runners in Monday's Boston Marathon something to worry about besides Heartbreak Hill. The forecast called for up to 5 inches of rain, temperatures in the 30s and wind gusts of up to 25 mph.

In Rhode Island, storm-related high winds forced the shutdown of T.F. Green Airport in Warwick early Monday. The winds damaged a construction area near the departure lounge on the second floor, airport spokeswoman Patti Goldstein said.

Up to 18 inches of heavy, wet snow was expected across the higher elevations of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. On the coast, strong winds and driving rain sent fishing boats to port, and residents prepared for coastal flooding.

More than 5.5 inches of rain fell in the New York City region Sunday, shattering the record for the date of 1.8 inches set in 1906, according to the National Weather Service. Residents in at least one Queens neighborhood paddled through streets in boats.

New Rochelle and the town of Mamaroneck, two suburban coastal communities about 10 miles from New York City, declared states of emergency. About 250 people packed a shelter in Mamaroneck at a high school gymnasium overnight.

Cars were stuck in the water on numerous roadways and the Hutchinson River, Bronx River and Saw Mill parkways were shut down at times because of flooding. All Westchester County schools were closed Monday.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer deployed 3,200 members of the National Guard to areas that might be affected by the storm. The Long Island Power Authority said about 7,500 customers lost power across the island Sunday.

In upstate New York, messy conditions from the western Finger Lakes to the Albany area and from the mid-Hudson Valley to the Adirondacks added another day to the Easter break for many schools.

Hundreds of people living below an earthen dam near Hamlin, W.Virginia, were asked to evacuate because of concerns that heavy rain had destabilized the structure.

At least three tornadoes touched down in South Carolina on Sunday. The most destructive cut a 14-mile long, 300-yard-wide swath through Sumter County in the central part of the state, killing a woman who was thrown from her mobile home and seriously injuring four other people.

Dozens of mobile homes were destroyed or knocked off their foundations, said Robert Baker Jr., director for the Sumter County Emergency Management Agency.

Airlines canceled more than 500 flights at the New York area's three major airports, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Dozens more were canceled in Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere in New England.

There were sustained winds of 30 to 35 mph and gusts of up to 48 mph at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Some residents along the Long Island Sound were urged to evacuate and more than 43,000 power outages were reported across Connecticut.

"We came up to see the city," said Amby Lewis, the leader of a girl scout troop from North Carolina who was stranded at LaGuardia airport. "And the lovely weather rolled in and we've been stuck ever since."

In the tony Connecticut town of Greenwich, the American Red Cross opened an emergency shelter and the water rose so fast in the western section of town that responders had to put four boats into the water and bring in bucket trucks to rescue residents.

In New Jersey, flooding was reported along the Ramapo and Saddle rivers in Bergen County, while minor flooding was occurring along the Delaware River.

The storm was expected to be the worst of its kind since the December 1992 nor'easter that caused millions of dollars worth of damage to buildings and forced thousands of evacuations.

Near Hamlin, W.Virginia, heavy rains caused Lee's Fishing Lake Dam to become destabilized, said Allen Holder, Lincoln County emergency services director.

A break in the dam would affect an area where 500 to 1,000 people live. The 22-foot dam holds at least 5 million gallons of water. At least 100 residents had already complied with a voluntary evacuation.

Earlier Sunday, dozens of people were rescued from homes and vehicles in Boone, Logan and Wyoming counties after flooding spawned by the storm system rolled through southern West Virginia. At least two people were injured and two others were unaccounted for, emergency officials said.

"It's about as bad as it can get," said Scott Beckett, chief of the Logan Fire Department. "This thing came down at 2 or 3 in the morning, when people were sleeping in their beds. They just didn't know what was happening."


Associated Press writers Daniela Flores and Matthew Verrinder in Trenton; Tom Breen in Madison, W.Virginia; David Sharp in Portland, Maine; and Karen Matthews and David B. Caruso in New York contributed to this report.



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