Deadly storm batters Northeastern US, knocking out power, grounding flights and flooding roads
Dec 18, 2023, 6:07 AM | Updated: 3:12 pm
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A storm barreled into the Northeastern U.S. on Monday, flooding roads and downing trees, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands, forcing flight cancellations and school closures, and killing at least four people.
More than 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain fell in parts of New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania by mid-morning, and parts of several other states got more than 4 inches (10 centimeters), according to the National Weather Service. Wind gusts reached nearly 70 mph (113 kph) along the southern New England shoreline.
Power was knocked out for more than 700,000 customers in an area stretching from Virginia north through New England, including over 278,000 in Massachusetts and 263,000 in Maine, according to poweroutage.us.
The weather service issued flood and flash-flood warnings for New York City and the surrounding area, parts of Pennsylvania, upstate New York, western Connecticut, western Massachusetts and parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
An 89-year-old Hingham, Massachusetts, man was killed early Monday when high winds caused a tree to fall on a trailer, according to Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz. Robert Horky was pulled from the trailer with severe head trauma and was pronounced dead at South Shore Hospital.
In Catskill, New York, a driver was killed after the vehicle went around a barricade on a flooded road and was swept into the Catskill Creek, the Times Union reported. And in Windham, Maine, police said part of a tree fell and killed a man who was removing debris from his roof. Police did not immediately name the man, and they encouraged residents to stay indoors.
On Sunday in South Carolina, one person died when their vehicle flooded on a road in a gated community in Mount Pleasant. Police officers and firefighters were able to get the victim out of the car and administer first aid, but they died at the hospital. The coroner’s office has not released the person’s name.
Windspeeds exceeded 60 mph (97 kph) in Maine, which was the site of widespread damage to trees and structures, representatives for Maine’s largest utility said.
Central Maine Power said it anticipated a “multi-day restoration effort” and crews Monday evening remained unable to safely use bucket trucks or to start making repairs.
Five months after flooding inundated Vermont’s capital city of Montpelier, water entered the basements of some downtown businesses as the city monitored the level of the Winooski River, officials said. Authorities in the village of Moretown, Vermont, residents to evacuate some 30 to 50 homes because of flooding.
Some schools canceled classes, sent students home early or delayed their openings due to the storm. A numbers of roads were also closed around the state due to flooding, including in Ludlow, the southern Vermont community that was hit hard by flooding in July.
Heavy rain and high tides caused flooding along the Jersey Shore, leading authorities to block off roads near Barnegat Bay in Bay Head and Mantoloking. The flooding was made worse by leaf piles that residents had put out for collection but was blocking water from reaching drains.
The Delaware River spilled over its banks in suburban Philadelphia, leading to road closures. In the suburb of Washington Crossing, crews placed barriers along roadways and worked to clear fallen tree limbs. Seven people died after flash flooding in that area over the summer.
Many flights were cancelled or delayed across the region. Boston’s Logan International Airport grounded all flights Monday morning because of the poor conditions, leading to more than 100 canceled flights and about 375 delays, according to the flight-tracking service FlightAware. At New York City area airports, nearly 80 flights were canceled and more than 90 were delayed.
In Rhode Island, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed parts of Providence’s hurricane barrier system to prevent flooding from storm surge, Mayor Brett Smiley said. The Providence River gates were closed in the morning and another gate was scheduled to close. City Hall in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was closed due to leaks and water damage from its landmark tower, the city posted online.
Commuter rail systems were reporting weather-related delays.
In New York City, high winds caused the temporary closure of the Verrazzano Bridge. It reopened later Monday morning, but with a ban on large vehicles. Rhode Island officials also were prohibiting tractor-trailers on the Newport Pell and Jamestown Verrazzano bridges over Narragansett Bay because of the wind.
State government officials urged people to avoid traveling and driving on flooded roads.
The storm moved up the East Coast on Saturday and Sunday, breaking rainfall records and requiring water rescues. It brought unseasonably warm temperatures of more than 60 degrees (16 degrees Celsius) to the Northeast on Monday.
In South Carolina on Sunday, the tide in Charleston Harbor reached 9.86 feet (3 meters) just before noon, which was the fourth-highest reading ever.
“This was a tough and frustrating day for our citizens, as historic high tides came up and over the land in the city, flooding cars, homes, businesses and streets,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said, adding there were no reports of serious injuries.
Tecklenburg said the city is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to protect against tidal flooding and to adapt to sea level rise and climate change.
Monday’s rain and wind came a week after a storm caused flooding and power outages in the Northeast after spawning deadly tornadoes in Tennessee.
Rathke reported from Marshfield, Vermont. Associated Press reporters David Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, Bruce Shipkowski and Michael Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey, Michael Casey in Boston and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this story.