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Nearly 100,000 told to evacuate in Northeast as remnants of Lee produce more floods
WILKES-BARRE, Pennsylvania (AP) ' Nearly 100,000 people in Pennsylvania and New York were ordered to flee the rising Susquehanna River on Thursday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee produced more flooding in the U.S.
At Binghamton, New York, the wide river broke a flood record and flowed over retaining walls downtown. About 80 miles (128 kilometers) downstream in Wilkes-Barre, the river was projected to crest later Thursday at 41 feet (12.5 meters) ' the same height as the levee system, officials said. Residents were ordered to leave by 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT).
Wet weather followed by Hurricane Irene and its remnants have saturated the soil across the Northeast, leaving water no place to go but into already swollen creeks and rivers. Many areas flooding this week were spared a direct hit by Irene, but authorities took no chances in the same places inundated by historic flooding after Hurricane Agnes in 1972.
The National Weather Service predicted up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain in some areas through Thursday.
Evacuation orders were issued Wednesday to some 20,000 people in Binghamton and neighboring communities along the Susquehanna. More than 70,000 residents in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston in Pennsylvania were told to leave, along with people in about 170 homes about 90 miles (145 kilometers) downstream in Harrisburg.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton said residents should prepare for an evacuation of 72 hours and advised them to take clothing, food and prescription medicine. He also asked city businesses to close at midday.
The evacuations come as the remnants of Lee, which has caused flooding and power outages across the South since hitting the Gulf Coast last week, slogged northward. At least nine deaths have been blamed on Lee and its aftermath.
Lee formed just off the Louisiana coast late last week and gained strength as it lingered in the Gulf for a couple of days. It dumped more than 12 inches (30 centimeters) rain in New Orleans and trudged across Mississippi and Alabama.
Meanwhile, in the open Atlantic, Hurricane Katia brought rough surf to the East Coast but was not expected to make landfall in the U.S. Tropical Storm Maria also formed Wednesday far out in the Atlantic, but it was too soon to tell if and where it might make landfall.