At least six people were killed as tropical storm Isaias spawned tornadoes and dumped rain along the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina, where it caused floods and fires that displaced dozens of people.
Two people died when Isaias spun off a tornado that struck a North Carolina mobile home park. Another person died in Pennsylvania when their vehicle was overtaken by water and swept downstream. Two others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland and New York City, and a sixth person died in Delaware when a tree branch fell on them, authorities said.
Isaias sustained top winds of up to 105 km/h more than 18 hours after coming ashore, but it was down to 72 km/h winds as of 10:50 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm’s centre was about 70 kilometres southeast of Montreal, moving northeast into Canada at about 61 km/h.
As Isaias sped northward, flooding threats followed. The Schuylkill River in Philadelphia was projected to crest early Wednesday at 4.7 metres, its highest level in more than 150 years. By Tuesday night, the river had already topped its banks in low-lying Manayunk, turning bar-lined Main Street into a coffee-coloured canal.
Aerial video by WRAL-TV showed fields of debris where rescue workers in brightly coloured shirts picked through splintered boards and other wreckage of the Windsor, N.C., mobile home park where two people were killed.
Emergency responders searching the area Tuesday afternoon found no other casualties, and several people initially feared missing had all been accounted for, said Ron Wesson, chairman of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners. He said about 12 people were hospitalized.
“It doesn’t look real; it looks like something on TV. Nothing is there,” Bertie County Sheriff John Holley told reporters, saying 10 mobile homes had been destroyed. “All my officers are down there at this time. Pretty much the entire trailer park is gone.”
High waters, fallen branches
In eastern Pennsylvania, a 44-year-old Allentown woman was killed after encountering high waters on a street in Upper Saucon Township that swept her vehicle downstream Tuesday afternoon, the Lehigh County coroner’s office said.
While in New York City, a massive tree fell and crushed a van in the Briarwood section of Queens, killing Mario Siles, a 60-year-old construction contractor who was inside the vehicle, police said. A woman in Mechanicsville, Md., died when a tree crashed onto her car during stormy conditions, said Cpl. Julie Yingling of the St. Mary’s County sheriff’s office.
In Delaware, authorities said a woman was outside assessing storm damage when she was hit and killed by a falling tree branch.
Isaias toggled between hurricane and tropical storm strength as it churned toward the East Coast. Fuelled by warm ocean waters, the storm got a late burst of strength as a rejuvenated hurricane with top sustained winds of 136 km/h before coming ashore late Monday near Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.
Its tropical storm status was sustained, but weakened, as it headed north into Canada on Tuesday night.
Before making landfall late Monday, Isaias killed two people in the Caribbean and battered the Bahamas before brushing past Florida.
3.7 million lose power
Tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. Power outages also spread as trees fell, with more than 3.7 million customers losing electricity across multiple states as of 10:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.
New York City’s power utility said it saw more outages from Isaias than from any storm except Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
In Doylestown, Penn., officials said four children were treated for minor injuries after high winds partially tore the roof off a day care centre. Also in the Philadelphia suburbs, rescue workers in Delaware County were searching for a young person who fell or jumped into the fast-moving water of a swollen creek, said Timothy Boyce, the county emergency services director.
In New York City, fierce wind and rain forced the Staten Island ferry and outdoor subway lines to shut down. The New Jersey Turnpike banned car-pulled trailers and motorcycles.
Some of the worst damage Tuesday seemed to be east and north of where the hurricane’s eye struck land in North Carolina.
“Fortunately, this storm was fast-moving and has already left our state,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday afternoon.
‘I’m shocked it’s still standing’
In North Myrtle Beach, S.C., the storm sent waves crashing over the Sea Cabin Pier late Monday, causing a big section to collapse into the water as startled bystanders taking photos from the pier scrambled back to land.
“I’m shocked it’s still standing,” said Dean Burris, who watched from the balcony of a vacation rental.
The Hurricane Center had warned oceanside dwellers near the North Carolina-South Carolina state line to brace for storm surge of up to 1.5 metres and up to 20 centimetres of rain.
Eileen and David Hubler were out early Tuesday cleaning up in North Myrtle Beach, where 1.2 metres of storm surge flooded cars, unhinged docks and etched a water line into the side of their home.
“When the water started coming, it did not stop,” Eileen Hubler said. They had moved most items of value to their second floor, but a mattress and washing machine were unexpected storm casualties.
“We keep thinking we’ve learned our lesson,” she said. “And each time there’s a hurricane, we learn a new lesson.”