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News / Nation & World

Snow in the West and flooding in the East. Here’s how the US is coping with the massive storm

By KATHY McCORMACK and SCOTT McFETRIDGE, Associated Press
Published: January 10, 2024, 12:05pm

CONCORD, N.H. — Drenching rains, flooding and fierce winds stranded vehicles, shuttered schools and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands in the Northeast, the swan song of a bout of violent weather that battered most of the United States. Forecasters warned Wednesday that more misery was not far behind.

The storm hit the Northeast on Tuesday night and moved out Wednesday after toppling trees, downing power lines, and forcing water rescues on flooded or washed-out roads.

Wind gusts reached as high as 95 mph (153 kph) in Maine, and blustery weather continued Wednesday. Philadelphia, which sits on the Delaware River upstream from the Atlantic Ocean, experienced its highest storm surge on record.

Another storm could bring heavy rain and high winds to the Northeast from Friday night into Saturday, forecasters said.

The region’s woes followed a day of tornadoes and deadly accidents in the South and blizzards in the Midwest and Northwest. In some parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies, more than 2 feet (about 75 centimeters) of snow fell. Bone-chilling cold promised to follow in some areas.

Hundreds of thousands of customers lost power at some point as storms swept the country. At least 250,000 customers remained without power Wednesday afternoon on both coasts and in parts of the Midwest, with New York and Pennsylvania leading the count, according to PowerOutage.us.

Nearly 700 flights were canceled across the country Wednesday, according to FlightAware.com.

The effects of the storm by region, and what’s still to come:

NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY, PENNSYLVANIA

A couple of Pennsylvania communities got more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain, and others came close. Emergency responders rescued some drivers as low-lying roads flooded.

In Lower Macungie, outside Allentown, a Mercedes remained in the middle of a now-dry two-lane road Wednesday afternoon, its owner having yet to retrieve it. An orange cone, a sign that rescuers had cleared the car, sat atop it. All told, first responders rescued four motorists in the bedroom community.

“It’s a common occurrence that when we have the heavy rains and the flooding occurs, and we shut down these roads, that some people choose to take their chances,” said Lower Macungie Fire Chief David Nosal. “And some make it through, some don’t, and those that don’t end up calling 911, and then we have to go out and retrieve them.”

The storm surge at Philadelphia was the highest in records dating to 1900, said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist with Yale Climate Connections. The storm flooded roads, uprooted trees and cut power.

The previous high surge came during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“Coastal flooding is accelerating and will continue to do so because sea level rise is accelerating, as well,” Masters said.

In New Jersey, roads flooded and rivers rose after some up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of rain fell on ground already saturated by another storm a few weeks ago.

Lou DeFazio, 65, of Manville, lives steps from the Millstone River, which flooded disastrously in 2021 in the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

“It’s getting worse and worse,” he said as the river swelled Wednesday.

In New York’s Nassau County, on Long Island, cars sloshed through water in the streets of Freeport. Farther east, near the Hamptons, flooding was reported at Shinnecock Bay. Several schools across Long Island canceled or delayed classes.

New York City officials evacuated nearly 2,000 migrants housed at a sprawling tent complex in Brooklyn amid fears high winds could collapse it. Families slept on the floor of a high school. The migrants returned to the complex early Wednesday after winds eased.

NEW ENGLAND AND CANADA

Winds gusted to 95 mph (153 kph) at Maine’s Isle au Haut, an island in Penobscot Bay, said Jon Palmer, of the National Weather Service.

Winds pushed a parked but empty Southwest Airlines plane into a jet bridge early Wednesday at Portland International Jetport, Maine’s largest airport, officials said. No one was hurt, but a wing was damaged and a new aircraft was sent to operate the flight.

The storm canceled events and government functions in Maine, where some areas were still recovering from a snowstorm over the weekend and flooding the previous month.

At parking lot near Widgery Wharf on the Portland’s waterfront, lobstermen used pumps in an attempt to thwart floodwaters.

A dam breach in Connecticut brought evacuation orders along the Yantic River in Norwich. The orders and the closure of a power substation, cutting electricity to homes and businesses, were to remain in effect until the dam was deemed safe.

The storm also caused severe coastal flooding at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, with police discouraging people from getting too close to the surf. Hampton Beach’s Ocean Boulevard was temporarily closed, and residents were told to shelter in place as the surf crashed over sea walls.

Water surrounded entire neighborhoods and made roads impassable, and a shelter was set up in Hampton. No injuries were reported.

In Vermont, winds gusted to 70 mph, and rain followed heavy, wet snow. Many schools closed or delayed classes.

The storm also hit Atlantic Canada with snow, rain, and high winds and waves, closing schools and cutting power to thousands in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

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WEST

Storms in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains dumped 29 inches (74 centimeters) at Stevens Pass in Washington and 30 inches (76 centimeters) outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to the National Weather Service.

Authorities issued warnings for very dangerous avalanche conditions in mountainous areas of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Washington and Oregon. Backcountry travelers were advised to stay off steep slopes and away from the bottom of steep slopes.

An avalanche at a ski resort near Lake Tahoe, California, brought out search teams Wednesday. There were no reports of people missing at Palisades Tahoe, said Sgt. David Smith, a spokesperson for the Placer County sheriff. The resort was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

In parts of northern Montana, temperatures could drop below minus 30 (minus 34 Celsius) by Saturday morning. High temperatures were expected to remain below freezing as far south as Oklahoma.

MIDWEST

Slushy highways led to fatal collisions in Wisconsin and another in Michigan.

The storm, which began Monday, buried cities across the Midwest, stranding people on highways. Some areas saw up to a foot (30 centimeters) of snow on Monday, including Kansas, eastern Nebraska and South Dakota, western Iowa, and southwestern Minnesota.

Madison, Wisconsin, expected much as 9 inches (23 centimeters) of snow and 40 mph (64 kph) winds.

The weather has already affected campaigning for Iowa’s Jan. 15 precinct caucuses, where the snow is expected to be followed by frigid temperatures that could drift below zero degrees (minus 18 Celsius).

Forecasters warned of dangerous temperatures and windchills in the Midwest and Plains dipping to minus 20 (29 Celsius) or lower in Chicago, Kansas City and some areas of Montana.

SOUTH

Several deaths have been blamed on heavy rain, hail and wind, including possible tornadoes. Roofs were blown off homes, and furniture, fences and debris were strewn about.

An 81-year-old woman in Alabama was killed when her mobile home was tossed from its foundation by a suspected tornado. A man died south of Atlanta when a tree fell on his car. Another person died in North Carolina in a suspected tornado.

Some areas of Florida were cautioned about streams and rivers flooding Wednesday afternoon. Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency for dozens of counties in North Florida.

Rescuers in Virginia pulled two people from floodwaters, where they clung to branches after their vehicle flooded and they were swept from its roof, according to Albemarle County Fire Rescue. They weren’t injured and were in the water for at least 10 minutes.

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