Hundreds flee as rivers swell from Md. to Maine

/ Source: The Associated Press

Anxious officials from Maryland to Maine were closely monitoring swollen rivers and other waterways that were expected to overflow their banks early Saturday, causing more hardships for communities where major flooding forced hundreds of people from their homes.

Forecasters warned that the worst was yet to come for many areas, especially parts of flood-prone northern New Jersey that were already under water after a storm that dropped as much as 5 inches of rain in some areas from Thursday afternoon through Friday morning. That came just days after most of the same areas — which are emerging from a snow-filled winter — were flooded by another round of heavy rains.

And while the water was not expected to recede in some spots for a few days, there was one positive sign: The National Weather Service said no major rains were expected there for several days, giving those areas a chance to dry out once the waterways drop back below flood levels.

But that provided little relief for residents who had to be evacuated from their homes and spent the night in shelters, or those who spent most of Friday getting water out their basements and trying to salvage items damaged by the rising waters.

'You cannot pump the river'
In Woodland Park, N.J., Mel Sivri was watching the Passaic River. He hung his daughters' pink bicycles and other items from ceiling hooks in the garage while an industrial pump cleared 4 inches of water from the floor.

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

Residents in several mid-Atlantic states were forced to flee their homes due to the rising waters, and more could be forced out on Saturday.

Wading through waist-deep water, Scott Kibrick, of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., retrieves items from the flooded office of the cab company he owns, Friday, March 11, 2011, in Elmsford, N.Y. Heavy rains overnight led the Saw Mill River and others to overflow their banks, causing major flooding across Westchester County. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)Jason DeCrow / FR103966 AP

In Greenburgh, N.Y., north of New York City, 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.

New York state from Manhattan to the Canadian border was under a flood watch as heavy rains and melting snow closed roads. And there were major concerns in New England that rising waters could break up river ice, creating ice jams that can cause flooding.

The Coast Guard said its units in Maine would begin icebreaking Saturday on the Kennebec River and continue through Tuesday to reduce the risk of property damage.

Pa. levees put to the test
Forecasters also warned that the Susquehanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania could rise as much as 8 feet over flood stage by Saturday near Wilkes-Barre. The city has a levee system to protect it, but low-lying areas downriver already had some minor flooding on Friday.

Meanwhile, police in Pittsburgh had set up detours for revelers coming into the city for Saturday morning's St. Patrick's Day parade. The detours are to help motorists avoid low-lying sections of Interstate 376 along the Monongahela, which was expected to flood by Saturday morning.

The flooding was also blamed for at least two deaths.

A 74-year-old Pennsylvania man's car was swept into Swatara Creek on Thursday in Pine Grove, about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia. And a woman drowned in Ohio on Friday after getting out of her car in a ditch in Williams County.