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Nine dead in storms in the East

BALTIMORE -- Searchers found the body of a third construction worker yesterday that was swept away as storms flooded roads and overflowed creeks across Appalachia and the Eastern Seaboard.

At least nine people have died, and emergency crews from Tennessee to Pennsylvania have rescued dozens of drivers from vehicles stalled in high water as the storms moved northeastward. In West Virginia, 350 children woke up yesterday morning still at school because roads to their homes were blocked by high water overnight.

The storms were tapering off yesterday after two days of rain, but flooding was still a problem as the rainwater drained into already swollen creeks and rivers.

Some of West Virginia's rivers crested at historic highs yesterday, and additional flooding was predicted along the Ohio River. Governor Bob Wise declared a state of emergency in 29 counties.

"It's the ultimate bizarre weather year," Wise said. "We're being tested in a way that we haven't been tested in a long time. We're showing what we're made of."

In the Baltimore suburb of Woodlawn, rescuers found the body of a missing construction worker yesterday inside the long culvert that he and two others had been repairing beneath Interstate 70 when it suddenly flooded Wednesday.

One of the workers was rescued within 20 minutes, but later died at a hospital. A second was found dead about a half-mile downstream.

Michael J. Miller, vice president of Concrete General, said the deaths were a "tragic accident that has really rocked us to the core."

The workers had been repairing an enclosed, 8-foot culvert that runs for several thousand feet, traveling under a roadway for most of its length, Miller said.

At Baltimore's Chinquapin Middle School, students observed a moment of silence yesterday morning for another storm victim, sixth-grader Darryl McTier, who died Wednesday afternoon after falling in a rain-swollen creek as he tried to retrieve his book bag. In Tennessee, a 10-year-old girl who was in a car crash and a man whose canoe overturned both died after as much as 4 inches of rain fell Wednesday.

The other deaths were in Pennsylvania, where State Police said a woman was killed when her station wagon skidded on a wet road outside Pittsburgh and hit an oncoming vehicle, and West Virginia, where the body of an 82-year-old man was recovered from a creek near his home in Switzer, and an 80-year-old man was killed when his vehicle ran into a rain-swollen creek near Fort Gay.

Also in West Virginia, at least 375 homes were damaged by high water from the storm and at least 360 roads were closed by floodwaters. South of Charleston, high water blocked the highway leading to the Sherman, W.Va. schools, forcing about 350 students to spend Wednesday night there. They were sent home yesterday morning.

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