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Tropical Storm Isaias drives wild weather up I-95

By Bryan Anderson and Sarah Blake Morgan
Associated Press

WINDSOR — At least four people were killed as Tropical Storm Isaias spawned tornadoes and dumped rain Tuesday along the U.S. 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. Authorities said two others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland and New York City.

More than 18 hours after coming ashore, Isaias still had sustained top winds of 65 mph. At 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday, the storm’s center was about 20 miles west of Albany, New York.

As Isaias sped northward at 40 mph, the National Hurricane Center warned of flash flood threats in the New York’s Hudson River Valley and potential for minor to moderate river flooding elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region.

Two people died after a tornado demolished several mobile homes in Windsor, North Carolina. Emergency responders finished searching the wreckage Tuesday afternoon. They 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 hospitalized.

Sharee and Jeffrey Stilwell took shelter in their living room about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday as the tornado tore through Windsor. Sharee Stillwell said their home shook “like a freight train.”

“I felt like the house was going to cave in,” said Jeffrey Stillwell, 65, though once the storm passed, the couple found only a few damaged shingles and fallen tree branches in the yard.

The mobile home park less than 2 miles away wasn’t so fortunate. Aerial video by WRAL-TV showed fields of debris where rescue workers in brightly colored shirts picked through splintered boards and other wreckage. Nearby, a vehicle was flipped onto its roof.

“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 New York City, a massive tree fell and crushed a van in the Briarwood section of Queens, killing a man inside, 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.

Isaias toggled between hurricane and tropical storm strength as it churned toward the East Coast. Fueled by warm ocean waters, the storm got a late burst of strength as a rejuvenated hurricane with top sustained winds of 85 mph before coming ashore late Monday near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.

Many homes flooded in Ocean Isle Beach, and at least five caught fire, Mayor Debbie Smith told WECT-TV.

Before making landfall late Monday, Isaias killed two people in the Caribbean and battered the Bahamas before brushing past Florida. On Tuesday, it remained a tropical storm on a path into New England.

“We don’t think there is going to be a whole lot of weakening. We still think there’s going to be very strong and gusty winds that will affect much of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast over the next day or two,” hurricane specialist Robbie Berg told The AP.

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 2.8 million customers losing electricity across multiple states, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.

In Doylestown, Pennsylvania, officials said four children were treated for minor injuries after high winds partially tore the roof off a day care center. Also in the Philadelphia suburbs, rescue workers in Delaware County were searching for a young person who fell or jumped into the fast-moving water of a swollen creek, said Timothy Boyce, the county emergency services director.

In New York City, fierce wind and rain forced the Staten Island ferry and outdoor subway lines to shut down. The New Jersey Turnpike banned car-pulled trailers and motorcycles.

Some of the worst damage Tuesday seemed to be east and north of where the hurricane’s eye struck land in North Carolina.

“Fortunately, this storm was fast-moving and has already left our state,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday afternoon.

In North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the storm sent waves crashing over the Sea Cabin Pier late Monday, causing a big section to collapse into the water as startled bystanders taking photos from the pier scrambled back to land.

“I’m shocked it’s still standing,” said Dean Burris, who watched from the balcony of a vacation rental.

The Hurricane Center had warned oceanside dwellers near the North Carolina-South Carolina state line to brace for storm surge up to 5 feet and up to 8 inches of rain.

Eileen and David Hubler were out early Tuesday cleaning up in North Myrtle Beach, where 4 feet of storm surge flooded cars, unhinged docks and etched a water line into the side of their home.

“When the water started coming, it did not stop,” Eileen Hubler said. They had moved most items of value to their second floor, but a mattress and washing machine were unexpected storm casualties.

“We keep thinking we’ve learned our lesson,” she said. “And each time there’s a hurricane, we learn a new lesson.”

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