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Thursday, September 8, 2011

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Penn. orders 65,000 to evacuate flood zone

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As the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dump heavy rain on the Northeast, officials in northeastern Pennsylvania are calling for a mandatory evacuation of communities along the Susquehanna River — an area that was inundated in the historic Agnes flood of 1972.

The order affects roughly 65,000 residents.

Luzerne County Management Agency official Frank Lasiewicki told The Associated Press Thursday the river is projected to crest at nearly 41 feet between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET Thursday — the same height as the levee system protecting riverfront communities including Wilkes-Barre and Kingston.

Residents were ordered to leave by 4 p.m. Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton said residents should prepare for an extended evacuation of 72 hours and advised them to take clothing, food and prescription medicine. He also asked city businesses to close their doors by noon.

The evacuations come as Lee's remnants caused havoc around the Northeast on Thursday, bringing floods that cut off major highways and caused some schools to open late or not at all. At least three people have died.

Police in Derry Township, Pa., said an elderly man who was trying to bail water out of his basement was killed when the house's foundation collapsed Wednesday.

Lancaster County Emergency Management Director Randy Gockley said a motorist trapped in a vehicle drowned early Thursday morning in Elizabeth Township, Pa. Gockley said responders found between 3 and 4 feet of water on the roadway as the nearby Hammer Creek went over its banks. Another death was confirmed Thursday morning by Gockley.

The National Weather Service predicted the rain would continue to fall heavily across the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states through Thursday with anywhere from 4 to 7 more inches falling and up to 10 inches in isolated pockets.

The NWS issued a string of flash flood warnings early Thursday for parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

A flash flood warning for parts of Maryland said that "although rain has become light ... a very dangerous situation still exists" in the affected areas.

The warning for New York, due to last until 11 a.m. ET, said rapid flooding of streams, creeks and poor drainage areas was likely in the affected locations.

'Very severe' flooding
An earlier warning issued Thursday for New York said that flooding "is ongoing and is very severe in many places with numerous evacuations."

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"Flooding will continue to worsen overnight as the rain continues. Rainfall totals for Wednesday through early Thursday morning will range from 5 to 12 inches across much of the warning area by 6 a.m.," the warning said."Travel will be hazardous through the early morning hours and is not advised except for emergencies," it added.

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