Waning Ida’s downpours swamp Mid-Atlantic coast

  • Thu Nov 12th, 2009 7:57am
  • News

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Relentless rain swept much of the Atlantic seaboard today, triggering coastal flood warnings and watches from North Carolina to New York’s Long Island, inundating streets and forcing some rescues of stranded drivers in hard-hit Virginia.

The downpour is the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ida, as the storm’s remnants move along the Atlantic coast. Although Ida quickly weakened once it made landfall, it drenched a swath from Alabama to Georgia soon after.

Watches and warnings for gales, high winds and storms were in effect from North Carolina to New Jersey.

Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine declared a state of emergency, and officials urged people in some areas to stay home as rain was predicted to continue in the drenched state at least through Friday.

Coastal southeast Virginia seemed to be the focus of the most severe flooding today, and a coastal flood warning was in effect through Friday evening.

The National Weather Service warned that parts of the area could expect up to 4 inches of rain by midmorning. The weather service said the greatest threat for severe flooding in the Hampton Roads area would likely come during high tide this afternoon and Friday evening.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesman Bob Spieldenner said his agency has received reports of a few Hampton Roads residents being rescued from their cars after getting stuck in high water.

“Each high tide is going to be worse, because the water’s going to keep building,” Spieldenner said.

The agency also is monitoring the potential for inland river flooding, depending on how much total rain will get dumped on the state. In western Virginia, Salem officials reported flooded streets and some people being pulled out of low-lying areas.

Dominion Power reported more than 22,000 outages in Virginia early today, with the largest numbers in southeast Virginia and the Richmond area. In Norfolk, on the coast, several bridges and a major tunnel were closed and numerous streets were flooded.

Most Hampton Roads schools and universities canceled classes today and some businesses closed for the day.

In western Virginia, flooding and downed trees blocked several roads, and the Roanoke River was expected to flood today.

Meanwhile, Coast Guard officials continued searching for three commercial fishermen whose boat sank in churning seas off the coast of New Jersey.

Flood warnings were posted across most of North Carolina from the mountains to the coast, with trees down and some roads closed.

Thousands of North Carolinians lost electrical service. Duke Energy reported more than 11,000 customers lost power in the Charlotte area, though much of the service had been restored by late Thursday morning.

The National Weather Service said this morning that rainfall in the previous 24 hours ranged from less than an inch in Charlotte to nearly 6 inches in New Bern on the coast.

Some roads were closed across the state by flooding and downed trees. Schools in several districts in the Wilmington area were opening late.

In South Carolina, state health officials blamed the heavy rains for overwhelming sewage plants in the Columbia area, dumping some raw sewage into three rivers.

In suburban Atlanta, streets and yards that border the Chattahoochee River filled with water as the river spilled over its banks from the rain. The area is still waterlogged from historic flooding in September, which swamped homes and businesses.