WINDSOR, N.C. (AP) — 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 15 hours after coming ashore, Isaias still had sustained top winds of 65 mph (105 kph). At 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, the storm’s center was about 65 miles (105 km) west of New York City, where winds forced the Staten Island ferry and outdoor subway lines to shut down.
As Isaias sped northward at 40 mph (56 kph), the National Hurricane Center warned of potentially life-threatening flooding around Philadelphia and other points along the I-95 corridor.
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.
An aerial shot 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, its tires pointed up in the air.
“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 (136 km/h) 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, forecasters expected it to remain 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, most of them in New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.
In Suffolk, Virginia, near the coast, multiple homes were damaged by falling trees and city officials received reports of a possible tornado. A fire station sustained damage including a broken window.
Motorists in the Philadelphia area had to be rescued as roads suddenly flooded. The threat of heavy wind and rain prompted the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to ban car-pulled trailers and motorcycles.
Most of the significant damage Tuesday seemed to be east and north of where the hurricane’s eye struck land in North Carolina.
Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that Brunswick, Pender and Onslow counties along the state’s southeast coast were among the hardest hit with storm surge, structure fires and reports of tornadoes.
Deputies on North Carolina’s Oak Island had to rescue five adults and three children after the storm hit, causing damage along the beachfront and knocking electricity and sewer facilities offline, authorities said.
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 (1.5 meters) and up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain.
Eileen and David Hubler were out early Tuesday cleaning up in North Myrtle Beach, where 4 feet (1.2 meters) 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.”
Morgan reported from North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Associated Press contributors include science writer Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; Gerry Broome in Southport, North Carolina; Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina; Michelle Liu in Columbia, South Carolina; Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland; Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; and Michael Sisak in New York.
Bryan Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.”