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East Coast hit hard before Ida moves out

A storm born from the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida is moving out to sea after raking the East Coast for three days, leaving behind it a trail of flooding, damaged buildings, eroded beaches and six deaths.
Image: A barge beached in Virginia
A barge carrying chemicals that broke free from a tugboat is grounded in Virginia Beach, Va., on Friday.Steve Helber / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A powerful storm born from the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida began moving out to sea Friday after raking the East Coast for three days, leaving behind it a trail of flooding, damaged buildings, eroded beaches and several deaths.

The nor'easter caused widespread problems in Virginia and the Carolinas before hitting the Jersey shore. Flooding was to remain a concern in coastal communities through high tide Saturday morning.

Several shops were evacuated in Washington, D.C., because of the threat of a building collapse possibly related to heavy rains. Construction work was under way at a row of buildings when the walls started to crack and separate.

Saturated ground after the recent rains may be a factor, the D.C. fire department said.

Several vessels carrying hazardous cargo broke loose from their moorings in Virginia during the storm. Crews were working to stabilize a 570-foot barge carrying containers of chemicals in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach.

Work crews boarded the barge and were riding out the storm with it, hoping it would run aground and could be towed away when the weather improves. A similar fate awaits a 700-foot oil tanker that broke loose and ran aground on a sandbar in the James River in Newport News, Va.

In New Jersey, bridges into Ocean City and Wildwood reopened by mid-afternoon after being closed for much of the day because of flooding.

"We think we got by the worst of what this storm is going to offer us," said Frank Donato, Ocean City's emergency management director. But between high tides very little of the flood waters had been able to dissipate, he said.

"Many of the neighborhoods in town are still completely flooded," he said.

No one in New Jersey was ordered to evacuate, and only about 100 people showed up at temporary shelters, said Nick Morici, a spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Management.

Traffic was backed up more than a mile on the Atlantic City Expressway Friday morning because flooding closed other major highways into the gambling resort.

Dunes eaten up
The storm wrecked dunes in several coastal communities including Ocean City, Atlantic City, and on Long Beach Island, where a beach replenishment project is partially finished.

In Manasquan, Joe Duska, a 66-year-old retiree, was photographing 15-foot waves smashing against an inlet rock jetty. Duska said he drove up and down the central New Jersey coastline a few days ago and looked at beaches, knowing a storm was coming, hoping to compare them with what would be left after the storm.

"The beaches are smaller already," he said. "You can see it."

New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection had planned to send crews to assess how much erosion the storm has caused. But they scrapped that plan Friday afternoon because the weather was too bad. They'll go Monday instead.

National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Robertson said the storm was heading out to sea Friday afternoon. After slamming the much of the U.S. coastline as it moved from south to north, serious flooding was not a danger north of New Jersey, he said.

Saturday morning's high tide would probably be the last to cause concern, he added.

The storm forced more than a dozen schools in southern New Jersey not to open or delay opening. Schools in southern Delaware, Worcester County, Md., and Accomack County, Va., also were closed.

School buses and SUVs in Freeport, N.Y., on Long Island's south shore, had to navigate streets with knee-high water.

Six deaths
The storm has been blamed for at least six deaths across three states.

Virginia State Police confirmed a fourth storm-related traffic death in the state Friday when a car ran off a highway and hit a light pole and a tree.

In New York City, a 36-year-old surfer died after getting caught in pounding surf churned up by the storm. In North Carolina, an elderly man standing in his yard was killed when a pine tree was snapped off by strong wind and fell on him.

The Coast Guard has halted the search for three missing New Jersey fishermen whose boat sank in rough seas Wednesday night.

155,000 still lack power
In Virginia and North Carolina, Dominion Power reported that more than 155,000 customers remained without electricity early Friday. All but about 10,000 of those customers were in southeast Virginia. Hundreds of roads were closed in Virginia.

Officials in Norfolk, Va., were waiting to assess damage once flood waters recede after nearly 8 inches of rain drenched the coastal city and major port.

Health officials closed all tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia to shellfish harvesting because of the potential of contamination from the nor'easter. The ban does not include crabs or fish.