Torrential rains across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast triggered flood warnings Thursday that forced authorities to order the evacuation of nearly 100,000 people from Maryland to New York and close numerous roads, bridges and schools.
With the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee continuing to dump rain on the region, the National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for parts of the East Coast from Virginia and Maryland to New York.
Among those ordered to flee their homes were residents along the rapidly rising Susquehanna River, which broke a flood record at Binghamton, N.Y., and overflowed downtown retaining walls. About 20,000 residents of the city and neighboring communities were told to evacuate, as were more than 70,000 residents downstream in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., nearby Kingston and hundreds of other areas farther south in Harrisburg. The river was forecast to crest at 41 feet Thursday in Wilkes-Barre, at the same height as the city’s levee system, the Associated Press reported.
In Port Deposit, Md., a Susquehanna River town 42 miles northeast of Baltimore, rising water levels upstream at the Conowingo Dam forced officials to open the floodgates and order about 1,000 residents to evacuate.
Tom Leighton, the mayor of Wilkes-Barre, told residents that there was “no need to panic” but ordered “an extended evacuation” from flood-zone areas, saying that people should expect to stay away for at least 72 hours. Along much of the Susquehanna, the river was expected to reach its highest levels since 1972, when Hurricane Agnes caused widespread flooding in the area, killing 129 people.
At least nine deaths had been blamed on Lee and its remnants as the storm has made its way across the South and up the Eastern Seaboard since hitting the Gulf Coast last week.
In the Washington area, flash flood warnings were issued Thursday for southeastern Prince William County, central Fairfax County (mainly along and west of the Capital Beltway), Arlington County, Alexandria, central and western Montgomery County and eastern Frederick County. Since late Sunday, six to 10 inches of rain have swamped areas east of the District, causing widespread flooding.
Across the Washington region, floodwaters triggered a variety of emergencies Thursday.
In Prince George’s County, sewage overflows were reported at two wastewater pumping stations, but officials said the safety of drinking water was not affected.
In Severn, Md., first responders rescued two people early Thursday after their vehicle became stranded by floodwaters. Officers found a man and a woman, both in their 60s, hanging onto a guardrail at Burns Crossing Road after floodwaters washed out the road.
In Upper Marlboro, Md., Mike Kress said his tire store was under five feet of water. “If I had a canoe, I could float right through my store window,” he said as he sat in a friend’s auto body shop across the street. Kress blamed the development practices of Prince George’s County for the flooding.
In Reston, Va., a tree fell on a bus, but there were no reported injuries.
Fairfax County police closed Route 50 westbound and limited eastbound traffic to one lane near Fair Oaks Mall because of flooding.
According to the Capital Weather Gang, the rain has persisted because of a logjam in the atmosphere, with the remnants of Lee at one end and Hurricane Katia in the Atlantic at the other. The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are caught in the middle.
In addition to road closures and school cancellations in the Washington area, the weather system has generated water rescues, tornado sightings and mudslides. On Thursday morning, Washington area residents awoke to another wet, gray day of flooding, as storms reminiscent Hurricane Irene dropped nearly a foot of rain.
Although the monsoon-like rainfall appeared to be over for the Washington area, steady showers — and an occasional thundershower — were expected to continue Thursday night.
That means more flooding, since it would not take much more precipitation to cause water surges in areas where the soil was already saturated.
Flash flood warnings were issued Wednesday night for two-thirds of the eastern metro area, including eastern Charles, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties; northwestern Calvert and St. Mary’s counties; and southeastern Baltimore counties.
Tornado warnings were issued Wednesday night for Prince George’s, northwest St. Mary’s and northeast Charles counties.
A minor mudslide was reported in Charles County, where a road had to be closed.