Tropical Storm Lee threatens Northeast with more flooding
KINGSTON, N.Y. (AP) — Northeastern residents still weary from the flooding wrought by Hurricane Irene braced Wednesday for the leftovers of Tropical Storm Lee, which brought welcome moisture to farmers in parched parts of the South on its slog northward.
New York positioned rescue workers, swift-water boats and helicopters with hoists to respond quickly in the event of flash flooding. Teams stood by in Vermont, which bore the brunt of Irene's remnants last week, and hundreds of Pennsylvania residents were told to flee a rising river.
"Everybody's on alert," said Dennis Michalski, spokesman for the New York Emergency Management Office. "The good thing is, the counties are on alert, as they were for Irene, and people are more conscious."
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 a foot of rain in New Orleans, testing the city's pump system for the first time in years, and trudged across Mississippi and Alabama.
Tornadoes spawned by Lee damaged hundreds of homes, and flooding knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people. Trees were uprooted and roads were flooded. Winds fanned wildfires in Louisiana and Texas, and the storm even kicked up tar balls on the Gulf Coast. At least four people died.
By Tuesday, it had collided with a cold front, leaving much of the East with wet, unseasonably cool weather.
Heavy rain fell Wednesday morning on the already-battered town of Prattsville, on the northern edge of New York's Catskill Mountains, where residents were ready to evacuate as the Schoharie Creek escaped its banks and smaller streams showed significant flooding.
If a storm to the west moved east, where many people are still displaced after last week's deluge, Greene County chairman Wayne Speenburgh said, he'd give the order to evacuate.
"It's becoming very fluid as we speak," he said. "Our command center and recovery area could be in the flood plain."
Flooding also led to voluntary evacuations in the Catskills town of Shandaken, and some schools in the Hudson Valley north of New York City closed or delayed start times.
A flood watch was in effect through Thursday afternoon in soggy Vermont. Parts of the state are still recovering from massive damage inflicted by floodwaters from the remnants of Irene, which was a tropical storm by the time it swept over the area.
Swift water rescue teams are on call, and residents should be ready to evacuate if rivers rise fast, said Vermont Emergency Management spokesman Mark Bosma.
Irene hit upstate New York and Vermont particularly hard, with at least 12 deaths in those areas and dozens of highways damaged or washed out. Several communities in Vermont were cut off entirely and required National Guard airdrops to get supplies.
In its trudge up the coast from the Carolinas to Maine, Irene was blamed for at least 46 deaths and billions of dollars in damage.
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