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Heavy rain caused by remnants of Lee drenches East Coast

Flood watches issued across region

By Michael Gormley
Associated Press / September 8, 2011

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WINDHAM, N.Y. - Drenched and dispirited, East Coast residents recovering from Hurricane Irene were stuck under the chugging remnants of Tropical Storm Lee yesterday, some of them grudgingly preparing to move to higher ground yet again as rivers rose.

From Maryland to New England, heavy rains swelled waterways, flooded highways, and stretched emergency responders already dealing with cleanup from last week’s punishing blow from Irene. Sodden ground gave rain nowhere to go but directly into streams, creeks, and rivers that rushed a turbid red-brown past rural communities.

“Now it’s getting on my last nerves,’’ said Carol Slater, 53, of Huntersfield, N.Y., on the northern edge of New York’s Catskill Mountains and just outside of hard-hit Prattsville.

The National Weather Service predicted heavy rain would continue across the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states through today, with anywhere from 4 to 7 more inches falling and up to 10 in isolated pockets. Flood watches and warnings were issued throughout the region.

New York positioned rescue workers, swift-water boats, and helicopters with hoists to respond in the event of flash flooding. Teams stood by in Vermont, which bore the brunt of Irene’s remnants last week, and hundreds of Pennsylvania residents were told to flee a rising creek.

By noon, Prattsville was cut off, its main roads covered with water as crews tried to dredge the creeks to alleviate flooding.

Heavy rain fell and residents were ready to evacuate as the Schoharie Creek escaped its banks and smaller streams showed significant flooding.

“Businesses and residential areas were devastated before,’’ Wayne Speenburgh, chairman of the Greene County Legislature, said of Prattsville. “Downtown, there’s nobody living because there’s no homes to live in.’’

Flooding led to voluntary evacuations in the Catskills town of Shandaken, Rotterdam Junction near Albany.

In New Jersey, where many residents were still cleaning up after Irene, the remnants of Lee were expected to drop 2 to 5 inches of rain.

Lee formed off the Louisiana coast late last week and gained strength as it lingered in the gulf for a couple of days. It dumped more than a foot of rain in New Orleans and trudged across Mississippi and Alabama.

Tornadoes spawned by Lee damaged hundreds of homes, and flooding knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people. Trees were uprooted and roads were flooded.

At least four people died; no deaths were reported yesterday. Irene was blamed for at least 46 deaths and billions in damage.

Meanwhile, in the open Atlantic, Hurricane Katia brought rough surf to the East Coast but was not expected to make landfall. Also, Tropical Storm Maria formed yesterday far out in the Atlantic, but it was too soon to tell if and where it might make landfall. Tropical Storm Nate formed in the Gulf of Mexico, and authorities have issued a tropical storm warning for parts of Mexico’s coast.

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