Video: Storms wreak havoc in Northeast

  1. Transcript of: Storms wreak havoc in Northeast

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: The massive rainstorm that assaulted the East Coast yesterday is making its way north and into Canada tonight , and what a mess it left behind. The morning commute was a disaster in places like Philadelphia . And here in New York , roads closed, flash flooding. Some places broke all-time rainfall records, including parts of North Carolina , which have gotten 22 inches of rain since Sunday.

updated 10/1/2010 7:37:13 PM ET 2010-10-01T23:37:13

Torrential downpours from a faded tropical storm inundated the Northeast on Friday, forcing evacuations, toppling trees, cutting power to thousands and washing out roads during a snarled morning commute. Water pooled so deeply in a Philadelphia suburb that a car literally floated on top of another car.

Heavy rains whipped Boston for hours Friday afternoon while other parts of the Northeast dried out after being hit hard overnight. The storm was blamed for five deaths in North Carolina on Thursday and a sixth in Pennsylvania on Friday — a woman who apparently drove her car into a rain-swollen creek before daybreak.

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Flights coming into New York City and New Jersey were delayed for up to three hours, and traffic coming into Manhattan was delayed by up to an hour under a pounding rain.

Firefighters in the Philadelphia area used a ladder truck to pull residents through the upper-floor windows of a building. Cars were submerged up to their windows, and a graphic artist found another vehicle floating atop his car.

"I'm a little frustrated, but what can you do? This is just nature," said the artist, 33-year-old Ismail Dibona.

Rainfall totals in the Philadelphia area topped 10 inches. Parts of upstate New York had unofficial totals of more than 6 inches of rain and New York City's Central Park recorded 3.08 inches.

"My drive to work was a nightmare today," said Paul Schatz, a paralegal in New York's Long Island. "On the way I saw a huge flood and two cars in the flood. All I could see of the two cars were the roofs. So it was really a nightmare. Every road I took was closed."

More than 50,000 power outages were reported in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the New York City suburbs during the brunt of the storm Friday morning, but many customers had power restored by the afternoon as the deluge reduced to a drizzle.

The storm hit the Berkshires in western Massachusetts hard Friday morning but without the high winds that could have stripped trees of leaves during fall foliage season, said Lauri Klefos, the president of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau in Adams.

"We have all kinds of festivals and outdoor activities in the region this weekend, so if it had to happen, I am happy it happened on a Thursday and Friday," she said.

A mudslide in neighboring New Hampshire resulted in a road closure.

The massive rainstorm drove up the Eastern Seaboard from the Carolinas to Maine on Thursday, the worst of it falling in North Carolina where Jacksonville took on 12 inches in six hours — nearly a quarter of its typical annual rainfall.

Video: Deadly deluge slams the East Coast

The governor of North Carolina declared a state of emergency, with officials there warning that creeks and rivers would continue to rise even after the storm passed.

Flood warnings were in effect for parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C.

The deluge that started on Wednesday set records in several areas, said Dan Peterson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"Multiple rainfall records have been set for parts of New York, eastern Pennsylvania and North Carolina," he said.

The highest total was in Newport, North Carolina, with a multi-day total of 19 to 21.5 inches of rain, he said.

Rescue crews used boats and hovercraft to reach people stranded in homes and cars that were surrounded by fast-moving flood waters.

Travelers at Boston Logan International Airport faced delays that were in part due to back-ups earlier in the day caused by heavier rains to the south, Judge said.

Flights were also delayed at John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports in the New York metropolitan region.

A period of cool weather was expected to follow the storm, the National Weather Service said.

Four people, including two children, were killed when their SUV skidded off a highway about 145 miles east of Raleigh and plunged into a water-filled ditch, North Carolina troopers said. A fifth victim likely drowned when his pickup veered off the road and into a river that was raging because of the rain.

Meteorologist Tim Armstrong with the National Weather Service in Wilmington declared the 22.54 inches to be the rainiest five-day period there that he could find on record since 1871. It easily beat Hurricane Floyd's 19.06 inches in 1999.

Slideshow: Soaked coast (on this page)

"We've measured the last drop of rain in our bucket for this event," Armstrong said. "I went through Floyd also and I thought I knew what rain was. Then I went through this."

He marveled at how a wet week changed everything: "We were praying for rain and we slipped into a moderate drought last week. It all turned around in a hurry."

Forecasts said a large high pressure system over Canada was expected to push the storm further offshore and likely spare New England the kind of extreme rainfall that flooded roads and homes.

The rain was part of a system moving ahead of the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole, which dissipated over the Straits of Florida on Wednesday.

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But the rain caused several other wrecks Thursday, including a crash between two transit buses in Maryland that left 26 people injured. Standing waters and fallen limbs on tracks slowed several Amtrak trains, while some Northeast airports reported flight delays of up to three hours. Parts of Virginia had 7 inches.

Forecasts called for cooler, drier air in many areas once the storm passed.

The flooding might have been worse if not for a dry spell across much of the Northeast. New Jersey State climatologist Dave Robinson says the low water levels on rivers and streams because of the drought saved that state from serious flooding.

"The saving grace was that we were dry and the rivers were low before this," he said. "If that had not been the case, we would be looking at historic flooding on the Delaware right now."

Get latest storm updates and eyewitness accounts on

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Photos: Soaked coast

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  1. Firefighters assist Anthony Catalano, who had been checking on pets at his home in Colonie, N.Y., on Friday, Oct. 1. Heavy rain in the Northeast washed out roads, knocked out power and delayed air traffic from North Carolina to Massachusetts. (Mike Groll / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Floodwaters from the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pa., had cut off this road on Friday. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Firefighters walk a motorist through high water after his car became stranded in the Little Conestoga Creek in Lancaster, Pa., on Thursday, Sept. 30. Much of the East Coast saw downpours and flooding due to what one private forecaster called a weather system similar to a hurricane. (Blaine Shahan / Intelligencer Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. This satellite-based view shows the remnants of Tropical Storm moving over the East Coast late Wednesday. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A buggy and car drive through high water in Ephrata, Pa., on Thursday. The area has an Amish community, which eschews motorized vehicles. (Blaine Shahan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A wind gust turns an umbrella inside out in Philadelphia on Thursday. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Tim Dickens piles sandbags in front of the door as landlady Mary Jane Lane watches in Carolina Beach, N.C., on Thursday. (Chuck Burton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A tractor trailer gets stuck along Virginia Beach Boulevard in Norfolk, Va., on Thursday. (Ross Taylor / The Virginian-Pilot via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Travelers wait to board flights at LaGuardia Airport Thursday in New York City. Airports in the region saw arriving flights delayed by up to four hours due to the rough weather. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A stranded motorist waits for a fire company ladder to be lowered to him Thursday in Lancaster, Pa. (Richard Hertzler / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A snapped tree lies on top of a home in Norfolk, Va., on Thursday. The storm dumped up to 7 inches of rain, closing roads and knocking out power for thousands of residents in the state. (Preston Gannaway / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A school bus navigates a partially flooded section in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday. (Nelson Kepley / News and Record via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A security guard walks along the empty observation tower atop the Rockefeller Center in New York City on Thursday as the storm system slowly moved in. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Joshua Pattel of Brisbane, Australia, plays in water flowing down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday during the heavy rain there. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Flood waters surround a condominium's pool in Carolina Beach, N.C., on Thursday. (Chuck Burton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A motorist checks the depth of flood waters on Highway 133 in Leland, N.C., on Thursday. (Chuck Burton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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