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Northeast Grapples with Persistent Heavy Rains as Flash Floods in Pennsylvania Result in Five Fatalities

by Michael Nguyen
2 comments
Northeast US floods

The Northeast was hammered by another wave of intense rain on Sunday, making it the second deluge within a week, which led to more flash flooding, grounded flights, and power outages. In Pennsylvania, an unexpected flash flood late Saturday afternoon resulted in at least five deaths.

Authorities from Upper Makefield Township in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, reported that around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, a heavy rainstorm hit the Washington Crossing area, causing multiple cars to be swept away. The disaster claimed the lives of at least five individuals and left a 9-month-old boy and his 2-year-old sister missing.

Other areas on the East Coast were also dealing with heavy rainfall, including Vermont, where officials warned of potential landslides on Sunday due to ongoing rain after several days of flooding.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott urged residents to stay alert and prepared in light of the flash flood warnings across the state.

The severe weather on Sunday resulted in numerous flight cancellations across airports in the New York City area, as reported by FlightAware tracking service. Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey alone had over 350 flights cancelled, while over 280 flights were cancelled at Kennedy International Airport in New York. Numerous other flights experienced delays.

The National Weather Service raised flash flood warnings and tornado watches for several areas, including parts of Connecticut, western Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. A tornado warning was even issued for an area straddling the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border. The severe weather also caused thousands of power outages.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul advised residents to avoid unnecessary travel until the storms subsided.

Governor Hochul also noted the extent of the damages, citing that Suffolk County on Long Island had received 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain within two hours. The state experienced $50 million in damages from the previous week’s storms. Disaster declarations were extended to cover over a dozen New York counties.

Emergency measures were also taken in Manchester, New Hampshire, the largest city in northern New England, where the emergency operations center was activated due to the severe weather. Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and other officials advised residents to remain indoors.

In Connecticut, severe flooding led to the closure of Tweed-New Haven Airport on Sunday. The airport, which is serviced by one commercial carrier, Avelo Airlines, announced on Twitter that its terminal would remain closed until further notice, leading to several flight delays.

Flash flooding was reported in several Connecticut towns, including New Haven, Hartford, and Waterbury, rendering many roads impassible. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said he was on his way to view the flood damage in Bristol, the home of ESPN.

In northern New Jersey, some roads were shut down as repair work commenced to fix areas of concrete that gave way under the heavy rain and flooding. Washed-out local creeks and a rockslide led to a blockage of Route 46, leaving thoroughfares littered with water, rocks, and brown sludge.

Back in Pennsylvania, Upper Makefield Township experienced a deadly deluge.

Fire Chief Tim Brewer reported the area received about 6 1/2 to 7 inches of rain (about 18 centimeters) in a mere 45 minutes.

“Nothing like this has been seen in my 44 years,” he said. “The water rose rapidly.”

Approximately 4 to 5 feet of water engulfed the road, sweeping away three out of an estimated 11 cars. All three vehicles were later located with no one inside. Rescue operations managed to save eight individuals from the vehicles and two from the creek.

The two missing children are part of a Charleston, South Carolina family visiting relatives. They were on their way to a barbecue when their vehicle got trapped in the flash flood, Brewer recounted.

A search party of about 150 people combed the creek during the night, with a further 100 joining in on Sunday. Brewer earlier said that while the mission is currently considered a rescue operation, it is likely transitioning to a recovery effort.

Governor Josh Shapiro assured that state emergency and transportation officials would provide assistance.

“All hands are on deck,” Shapiro declared.

In North Carolina, a 49-year-old woman died when floodwaters swept her car off a road in Alexander County late Saturday night. A male passenger in the car was rescued.

Meanwhile, fans of international soccer star Lionel Messi sought shelter from a heavy downpour in Miami as they awaited an event celebrating his signing to a team through 2025.

In Vermont, recovery efforts are ongoing in response to the recent heavy rains.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation reported that 12 state roads remained closed, 12 were partially open, and 87 that were previously closed have been reopened.

The agency added that 211 bridge inspections have been carried out this week in damaged areas, with four state bridges and four town structures still closed.

Additionally, rail lines throughout Vermont have been damaged, with 57 miles (92 kilometers) reopened and 64 miles still closed.

“Our crews have been working non-stop all week to repair the damaged state roads and bridges, and to restore the state’s transportation infrastructure for Vermonters and visitors,” Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said.

The extreme weather extended beyond heavy rainfall. A blistering heatwave in the Southwest left roughly a third of Americans under some form of heat watch or warning. This included extreme temperatures in the world’s hottest location — Death Valley, which straddles central California’s border with Nevada. Las Vegas was also on the brink of reaching a record temperature on Sunday.

Air quality alerts were issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for several states stretching from Montana to Ohio on Sunday due to smoke from Canadian wildfires. Governor Hochul of New York expected similar warnings to be issued for northern and western parts of New York state on Monday due to the wildfires.

“Air Quality alerts are in place for much of the Great Lakes, Midwest, and northern High Plains,” the National Weather Service reported. “This is due to the lingering thick concentration of Canadian wildfire smoke over these regions.”


Note: This story corrects the name of the township to Upper Makefield.


Contributions to this report were made by Big Big News writers Ron Todt in Philadelphia; David Collins in Hartford, Connecticut; Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; and Leah Willingham in Charleston, West Virginia.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Northeast US floods

What caused the heavy rains and flash flooding in the Northeast US?

The heavy rains and flash flooding in the Northeast US were caused by severe storms and intense rainfall.

How many lives were lost in the Pennsylvania flash floods?

At least five lives were lost in the flash floods that occurred in Pennsylvania.

Were there any flight cancellations due to the storms?

Yes, the storms led to hundreds of flight cancellations, particularly in the New York City area.

Did the severe weather result in power outages?

Yes, power outages were reported in several areas affected by the severe weather.

Were there any other states affected by the heavy rainfall and floods?

Yes, other states, such as Vermont and Connecticut, experienced heavy rainfall, floods, and related issues like landslides.

Was there any damage to infrastructure, such as roads and bridges?

Yes, the severe weather caused damage to roads, bridges, and rail lines in various locations, including Vermont.

What precautions were advised by officials during the storms?

Officials advised residents to remain vigilant, stay prepared, and avoid unnecessary travel during the storms.

Were there any other extreme weather events mentioned in the text?

Yes, the text mentions a scorching heatwave in the Southwest and air quality alerts due to Canadian wildfires affecting parts of the United States.

How are recovery efforts progressing in the affected areas?

Recovery efforts are underway in the affected areas, with transportation and emergency officials providing aid and working to restore infrastructure.

More about Northeast US floods

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2 comments

SafetyFirst101 July 17, 2023 - 8:22 am

officials urging caution, stay prepared during storms! flash floods don’t warn! better be safe than sorry, folks! ⚠️

Reply
GrammarNinja July 17, 2023 - 2:42 pm

Some small mistakes, but overall, important news! Stay safe, everyone, and be prepared for severe weather conditions. Mother Nature can be unforgiving!

Reply

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