Isaias whips up eastern US, killing six

WINDSOR, NORTH CAROLINA (AP) – At least six people were killed as Tropical Storm Isaias spawned tornadoes and dumped rain on Tuesday along the United States (US) East Coast 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 65mph more than 18 hours after coming ashore, but it was down to 45mph max winds as of 10.50pm EDT on Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Centre. The storm’s centre was about 45 miles southeast of Montreal, moving northeast into Canada at about 38mph.

As Isaias sped northward, flooding threats followed. The Schuylkill River in Philadelphia crest early yesterday at 15.4 feet, 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, North Carolina, 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 hospitalised.

Power lines criss-cross at street level after Tropical Storm Isaias and its high winds and heavy rain passed through Guttenberg, New Jersey. PHOTO: AFP

“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.”

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, Maryland, 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 85mph before coming ashore late Monday near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. 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.

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 10.15pm EDT on 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.