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Heavy rain swamps parts of Northeast

The northeastern United States was the soggy epicenter of a series of floods on Tuesday. A foot or more of rain fell in parts of the region, forcing hundreds from their homes.
/ Source: The Associated Press

More than a foot of rain burst dams, flooded roads and sent torrents of water into houses and businesses in the Northeast, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes in the early morning hours Tuesday.

More than 750 people in New Jersey left their homes and cars at the height of the flooding early Tuesday, as a dozen dams and at least three bridges were washed under. Lawmakers urged President Bush to declare parts of south-central New Jersey a disaster area, and Gov. James E. McGreevey declared a state of emergency in two counties.

No injuries were reported in the stricken areas, which extended into Pennsylvania and northeastern Maryland.

Tammy Spiese was trying to clear debris on her property near Reading, Pa., when rising water carried her into a drainage pipe. She had to be pulled out by her husband and a police officer.

“I was in the water up to my neck,” Spiese said. “It was very powerful and I had to hold onto the rocks above.”

About 100 people who fled the rising waters in New Jersey remained homeless. Cars floated like boats, basements filled up with water and in one town a horse had to swim to safety.

“We left with the clothes on our backs,” said Sandy Tams, who was taken with her husband and children by boat from their Mount Laurel home after midnight.

Residents were still being helped from homes by rescuers at midmorning. One man, perched on the roof of a home, was rescued by two men in a canoe as water lapped at the eves of the house.

State police said up to 25 roads were closed after more than a foot of rain fell in parts. Burlington County received the most rain, with 13.2 inches.

In the hardest-hit areas, cars were abandoned along flooded streets and downtowns strewn with mud and trash.

At least 12 small dams were breached during the night and three small bridges were washed away in Burlington County, which stretches eastward from the Philadelphia area through south-central New Jersey, state police said.

In Maryland, flood waters damaged about 80 homes, and road flooding and bridge damage closed major highways and secondary roads, tying up traffic through much of the day. Crews worked to clear more than 100 trees downed in Elk Neck State Park and the nearby state forest.

Interchange 4 of the New Jersey Turnpike at Mount Laurel was shut down for more than an hour because flooding had closed Route 73 in nearby Maple Shade.