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Rivers flood across East, forcing evacuations

Flooding washed over part of the eastern U.S., filling basements with water, forcing hundreds of people out of their homes and turning a highway into swimming pools for ducks.
A police officer stands watch over a section of Kelly Drive flooded by waters from the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Friday, March 11.
A police officer stands watch over a section of Kelly Drive flooded by waters from the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Friday, March 11.Matt Rourke / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Flooding washed over part of the eastern U.S., filling basements with water, forcing hundreds of people out of their homes and turning a highway into swimming pools for ducks.

At least two people have died in the flooding, including one in Ohio, where the water was receding Friday. But it continued to rise from western Maryland to Maine, even though the weather turned sunny over much of the affected area, a respite from Thursday's heavy rains.

Some of the hardest-hit areas were just outside New York City, which is emerging from a snow-filled winter.

Flood-prone parts of northern New Jersey were under water, which was not expected to recede in some areas for at least a few days. By midmorning, state police said 1,300 homes in near the Pompton River in Pequannock had to be evacuated, as did about 100 in Fairfield.

A handful of shelters were opened by midday and the American Red Cross was preparing more.

In Woodland Park, N.J., Mel Sivri spent Friday morning preparing for what havoc the Passaic River would cause.

Sivri had hung his daughters' pink bicycles and other items from a series of hooks fastened to the garage ceiling while an industrial pump cleared the four inches of water the floor of his garage. He was also monitoring weather websites to decide whether the family should head to a friend's house on higher ground.

"You cannot pump the river," he said. "You just have to wait for it to go down."

Major flooding was expected along the Passaic, Pequannock, Ramapo and Pompton rivers in northern New Jersey.

Some of the same spots were flooded earlier this week after heavy rains on Sunday.

Gov. Chris Christie was planning a tour of flood-stricken areas Friday afternoon. The governor was criticized when he was out of the state during a late December blizzard. This time, with forecasters expecting floods days before they arrived, he declared a state of emergency even before the rain began falling.

The National Weather Service said no major rains were expected for several days, giving the area a chance to dry out.

In Westchester County, N.Y., ducks were swimming on water pooled on the Hutchinson River Parkway.

In Elmsford, just north of New York City, pedestrians were wading through knee-deep flood waters from the Saw Mill River, which expanded from 15 feet wide to 200 feet in some places Friday.

With her bus not running, Elizabeth Ritter of Elmsford, decided to walk the couple miles to her job as a nurse's aide in White Plains. She forded the Saw Mill in bare feet and tried to hold her black shoes above water while hiking up a pant leg.

"It's cold, very cold. I was worried about stepping on glass. But it's pretty smooth, just concrete," she said. "I had to get to work. They need me."

In nearby Greenburgh, Jessica Dontona was home with her 7-year-old daughter, Samantha, to check on the house. They had decamped in the middle of the night for a hotel as the basement filled with water.

The flood made her think about moving.

"You know, living high on a hill is starting to look really good," she said.

Then she joked about a selling point for her current home, which is inland: "It's ocean-front property."

Flooding caused by several inches of rain was blamed for the death of a Pennsylvania man whose car was swept away by the rising waters.

Schyulkill County Coroner Joseph Lipsett said 74-year-old David Sallada was killed Thursday night after he drove around barricades blocking a water-covered road. Sallada's car was swept into the Swatara Creek in Pine Grove, about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

It was at least the second death of this round of floods across the eastern part of the country. On Friday, Ohio officials said they believe that a death Thursday was caused by the flooding. Sheriff's deputies told The Blade of Toledo that a woman drowned after getting out of her car in a water-logged ditch in Williams County on Thursday.

The National Weather Service says the Susquehanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania could get as much as 8 feet over flood stage by Saturday near Wilkes-Barre. The city has a levee system, but some nearby towns are vulnerable.

New York state from Manhattan to the Canadian border was under a flood watch as heavy rains and melting snow closed roads. More than a dozen school districts in the Hudson River Valley were closed or delayed because of flooding.

There were scattered evacuations of homes in Deerpark, in rural southern New York state and Preble, near Syracuse.

While the rain stopped in the mid-Atlantic region, it continued to fall hard in New England. More than 2 inches were expected in parts of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

There, the big concern was that rising water could break up river ice, creating ice jams that can cause flooding.

Friday morning, officials were monitoring a pair of ice jams in Plymouth, N.H. Ice-breakers were stationed on Maine's Kennebec River and in Vermont's Winooski River.

There was also moderate flooding in western Maryland. Both the Conococheague Creek in Fairview and the Monocacy River near Frederick were out of their banks.

In Ohio, minor flooding persisted along the Ohio River. It was about 3 feet above its official flood level in Cincinnati on Friday and still rising.

And March, known for its wild weather swings, was unleashing another kind of weather in Cleveland and northeastern Ohio: There were 8 inches of snow on the ground in some areas by midday.


Associated Press writers Jim Fitzgerald in Elmsford, N.Y., Chris Carola and Michael Hill in Albany, N.Y., Shawn Marsh in Trenton, N.J., David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., Matt Moore in Philadelphia and Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, N.J., contributed.