Hundreds evacuated as heavy rains flood homes, roads in across Eastern states
KEENE, N.H. – Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes after a weekend of drenching rain washed out roads and flooded homes in states from North Carolina to New Hampshire.At least three deaths were blamed on the storm.New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch declared a state of emergency Sunday and called in 500 National Guard members to assist in flood relief. Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray said police and highway crews blocked damaged roads before dawn, a move that likely prevented injuries.”A quick assessment is we’re probably looking at months, not weeks” to make repairs, she said.The most severe flooding in New Hampshire was in Keene, where some major roads were under as much as 4 to 6 feet of water, fire officials said. Keene Fire Chief Gary Lamoureaux estimated 30 to 40 percent of the downtown area was under water. Keene State College canceled Monday classes and told out-of-town students to stay away.About 500 people were evacuated, and about 150 were staying at a shelter in a recreation center Sunday. In nearby Stoddard, residents were also told to leave. Officials heard reports that houses washed into rivers, dams were breached and bridges in several communities were washed out.”I looked out my window and all I could see – straight down – was water, right up against the building,” said Sean Weeks, 19, who was awakened by firefighters around 3:30 a.m. and told to evacuate.Weeks said he saw a house across the street collapse into the raging water. No one was in it at the time. By late afternoon, police allowed him to return home to grab an armful of belongings: clothes, a construction tool belt, a backpack and a rifle.At least one person was killed in New Hampshire when a car went off a washed-out bridge in the town of Unity, said Pam Walsh, the governor’s spokeswoman.In Pennsylvania, a person died after a car struck a guardrail in Bucks County and flipped into a creek, trapping the driver. A car accident in New Jersey killed a 2-year-old boy, police said.Pennsylvania authorities rescued two boys from an Allentown creek on Saturday after their inflatable raft overturned. As the boys clung to a small tree, firefighters tossed them a pair of life jackets and then pulled them to safety with a rope. Authorities said a family was rescued from an apartment when a retaining wall collapsed, and another six were evacuated from a mobile home park.Eight-foot-high flood waters from the Ramapo River caused officials in New Jersey’s Bergen County to evacuate about 30 residents Saturday night and early Sunday, Mayor John Szabo said. Rain also knocked out electricity to as many as 6,000 utility customers across the state.Chris Finn, 46, said there was 3 to 4 feet of water in his Oakland, N.J. neighborhood.”There are people that kind of joyride in canoes through the neighborhood,” Finn said, looking out his window.In Vermont, more than 200 people, including residents of a Brattleboro senior citizen home, were evacuated Saturday night.In North Carolina, Gov. Mike Easley warned residents to stay away from swollen rivers and creeks, already high from Hurricane Ophelia last month. The state’s Department of Transportation reported 41 roads closed because of flooding.The National Weather Service reported that more than 5 inches of rain fell in Wilmington, N.C., on Saturday. Allentown, Pa., received 10 inches between Friday and Saturday. New Jersey’s Brunswick and Pender counties saw between 7 and 10 inches of rain in four days.”They didn’t predict this much rain,” said Joan Kinney, mayor of Boiling Spring Lakes, N.C., which unofficially measured more than 15 inches of rain. “It took us all by surprise.”—Associated Press Writer Chris Newmarker contributed to this report from Trenton, N.J.