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More than 100,000 told to evacuate in Pennsylvania because of flooding
HERSHEY, Pennsylvania (AP) ' More than 100,000 residents were ordered to move away from the rising Susquehanna River on Thursday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped more rain across the U.S. Northeast.
The Susquehanna is projected to crest in northeastern Pennsylvania between 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT) and 8 p.m. Thursday at 41 feet (12.5 meters) ' the same height as the levee system protecting riverfront communities including Wilkes-Barre and Kingston, officials said. Residents were ordered to leave by 4 p.m.
"There is no need to panic," Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton said. "This is a precautionary evacuation and the safety of our residents is our biggest concern. We have prepared for this type of emergency and we are ready to respond to whatever comes our way over the next 72 hours."
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 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.
The National Weather Service predicted rain would continue to fall heavily across the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states through Thursday, with up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) in some places.
Roads and highways closed around the region. In Philadelphia, flooding and a rock slide closed the eastbound lanes of the Schuylkill Expressway, a major artery into the city, and it could take hours for the road to reopen.
In New York, the Thruway Authority expected Thursday to close a 105-mile (170-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 90 where it runs along the Mohawk River, which had overflowed its banks in some areas. It's the state's most heavily traveled east-west highway.
In eastern New York, thousands of people were expected to evacuate the flood-battered Binghamton area Thursday, and some schools were closed in the surrounding area.
Two storm-related deaths were reported in Pennsylvania. Police in Derry Township said a man who was removing water from his basement was killed when the house's foundation collapsed, and a motorist trapped in a vehicle drowned early Thursday morning in Elizabeth Township, in Lancaster County.
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) of rain in New Orleans and trudged across Mississippi and Alabama.
The rainy remnants of Agnes devastated the Susquehanna River basin in 1972 after moving up the coast. At the time it was one of the most damaging hurricanes ever recorded despite being a relatively weak storm.
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.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Chris Carola, Michael Hill and Rik Stevens in Albany, New York; Jim Fitzgerald in White Plains, New York; John Curran in Montpelier, Vermont; and Genaro C. Armas in State College, Pennsylvania.