boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe

East Coast storm causes wind, flood damage

Flood waters covered a truck in Mount Gay in Logan County, W.Va., yesterday. Up to 2 1/2 inches of rain had fallen in southern West Virginia since Saturday and streams were still rising. (michael browning/the logan banner via ASSOCIATED PRESS)

NEW YORK -- High winds and heavy rain caused havoc from Florida to Maine yesterday, grounding airlines, damaging homes, and threatening to create some of the worst coastal flooding in 14 years in some states.

Severe flooding forced people out of their homes in the middle of the night in West Virginia. Other inland states faced a threat of heavy snow.

One person was killed as dozens of mobile homes were destroyed or damaged by wind in South Carolina. The storm system already had been blamed for five deaths on Friday in Kansas and Texas.

Airlines canceled more than 400 flights at the New York area's three major airports, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Storm warnings and watches were in effect along the entire East Coast. Winds gusted to 71 miles per hour at Charleston, S.C., the weather service said.

Meteorologists expected sustained wind of 40 miles per hour and a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet, a combination that could cause as much coastal damage to Long Island as a winter storm did in late 1992, Governor Eliot Spitzer said.

Ferry service to Fire Island, off the south shore of Long Island, was halted, and New York City opened nine emergency storm shelters in flood-prone locations. Spitzer sent 3,200 National Guard members to potential flood areas.

Some residents of low-lying areas along the New Jersey shore packed up to leave.

"This is going to be bad," Shaun Rheinheimer said as he moved furniture to higher spots at his house on New Jersey's Cedar Bonnet Island.

Streets were flooded and waves splashed over bulkheads into backyards.

The storm also caused flash flooding in the mountains of southern West Virginia, where emergency services personnel rescued nearly two dozen people from homes and cars in Logan and Boone counties early yesterday. Two people were unaccounted for.

"It's about as bad as it can get," said Scott Beckett, fire chief of Logan, W.Va. "This thing came down at 2 or 3 in the morning, when people were sleeping in their beds. They just didn't know what was happening."

Some remained trapped in their homes because roads were blocked by high water or mud, said Dean Meadows, Wyoming County emergency services director.

Up to 2 1/2 inches of rain had fallen in southern West Virginia since early Saturday and streams were still rising yesterday, the Weather Service said.

At least 3 inches of rain fell in eastern Kentucky, where a 50-foot section of highway collapsed near Pikeville, said State Police Sergeant Jamey Kidd. No vehicles were caught by the collapse, he said.

Dozens of homes were destroyed or blown off their foundations in several areas of South Carolina's Sumter County, but authorities didn't immediately know if the cause was a tornado or straight-line wind, said county emergency management director Robert Baker Jr. One person was killed and four were seriously injured, he said.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES