Death toll rises, mass power outages after storm destruction
WINDSOR, N.C. (AP) — At least nine people, including a 5-year-old girl with autism, were killed as Tropical Storm Isaias battered the U.S. East Coast with rain and fierce winds after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina. Millions of people were without power on Wednesday after felled trees downed power lines.
The sound of generators and chainsaws punctuated the sunrise in New Jersey, where more than 1 million homes and businesses were without electricity. NJ Transit train service remained suspended while crews cleared about 150 trees and repair signals and overhead wires.
Regional rail service was also suspended in Philadelphia after Isaias raised the Schuylkill River and sent an unsecured construction barge into a bridge. Inspectors were checking for damage. Interstate 676, which crosses the bridge, was also closed in both directions.
Patrick Foye, chairman of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said more than 2,000 trees fell across the system’s train and bus network.
“This storm caused severe damage,” Foye said Wednesday. “Not since Superstorm Sandy has our system experienced this type of wind.”
Two people died when Isaias spun off a tornado that struck a North Carolina mobile home park. Another person died in Pennsylvania when their vehicle was overtaken by water and swept downstream. The 5-year-old girl had gone missing from her Philadelphia-area home during the height of the storm Tuesday and was found dead Wednesday. Authorities said they believed she was swept away by floodwaters in the creek behind her house.
Three others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland, Connecticut and New York City, and another person died in Delaware when a tree branch fell on them, authorities said. A woman was found dead inside a New Hampshire house Tuesday evening.
Isaias sustained top winds of up to 65 mph (105 kph) more than 18 hours after coming ashore, but it was down to 40 mph max winds as of early Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
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. Its tropical storm status was sustained, but weakened, as it headed north into Canada on Tuesday night.
Before making landfall late Monday, Isaias killed two people in the Caribbean and battered the Bahamas before brushing past Florida.
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 2.1 million customers without electricity across multiple states as of Wednesday night, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.
With many people facing several days in the dark, New York and Connecticut’s governors called for investigations into how utilities responded to the storm. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted the companies for showing “reckless disregard” for storm planning and said it can’t happen again.
Con Ed, the New York City power utility that saw more outages from Isaias than from any storm except Superstorm Sandy in 2012, set up stations Wednesday to hand out ice to people who were still without power.
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.
Some of the worst damage 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.
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.”