WEATHER

Tropical Storm Lee threatens Northeast with more flooding

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As the remnants of Lee spread over the area, flood watches or warnings were in place through Thursday night for much of Pennsylvania, where about 3,000 residents along the Solomon Creek in the city of Wilkes-Barre were ordered to evacuate after the water level there quickly approached flood stage before receding in the morning. Rain from Irene also led to evacuations there last week.

Irene left parts of New York, New Jersey and several other Northeast states flooded. (Photo: Associated Press)

In New Jersey, where many residents were still cleaning up after Irene, the remnants of Lee were expected to drop anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of rain. Major flooding was forecast on Wednesday for the Passaic River, which breached its banks during Irene and caused serious damage.

On New York's Long Island, heavy rain and winds knocked out power to more than 9,000 utility customers for several hours on Tuesday.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., a 24-hour record for rainfall was set with 9.69 inches, eclipsing the previous record of 7.61 inches in March of 1886. By Tuesday, more than 10 inches of rain had fallen in the city, which had its driest August ever, with barely a drop of rain.

The rain was a blessing for some farmers who had been forced to cut hay early and had seen their corn crop stunted by a summer drought.

"Obviously we would like to have this a while earlier," said Brant Crowder, who manages 600 acres of the McDonald Farm in the Sale Creek community north of Chattanooga. "It's been hot and dry the last two months."

The soggy ground meant even modest winds toppled trees onto homes and cars. A Chattanooga woman died when a tree fell on her car, police said.

In suburban Atlanta, a man died after trying to cross a swollen creek near a dam. A swimmer was presumed dead in rough Gulf waters off Alabama, and another man drowned while trying to cross a swollen creek in a car.

At a flooded apartment complex in Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia, 33 people were saved by boat, officials said. The American Red Cross set up a shelter for them and other residents displaced in Mississippi, where damage was reported in at least 22 counties.

In Gulf Shores, Ala., chunks of tar as large as baseballs washed up on the beach. Samples were being sent for testing to determine if they were from last year's BP oil spill.

As many as 200,000 customers lost power across Alabama at the height of the storm. Outages were also reported in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

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.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Katia weakened to a Category 1 storm in the Atlantic early Wednesday and was expected to pass between the U.S. East Coast and Bermuda over Wednesday night and Thursday.

The storm's maximum sustained winds decreased to 90 mph (150 kph). Additional weakening was expected Thursday. It is not expected to hit the U.S. coast.

The hurricane center also said a tropical depression farther out in the Atlantic was expected to become a tropical storm later in the day.

The depression, which could become Tropical Storm Maria had maximum sustained winds near 35 mph (55 kph). It was centered about 1,100 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands and moving west near 20 mph (32 kph).

It could pass over or near Puerto Rico by Sunday.

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