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100,000 evacuated from new US storm

More than 100,000 residents have been ordered to move away from a flood-swollen river in Pennsylvania as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped more rain across the US north east.

The Susquehanna River is projected to crest in north-eastern Pennsylvania at 41 feet - the same height as the levee system protecting river-front communities including Wilkes-Barre and Kingston, officials said.

"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 north east, 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 northwards.

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 in Elizabeth Township, Lancaster County.

The National Weather Service predicted rain would continue to fall heavily across the mid-Atlantic and north-eastern states through today, with up to 10 inches in some places.

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 to close a 105-mile stretch of Interstate 90 where it runs along the Mohawk River, which had overflowed its banks in some areas. It's the state's busiest east-west highway. In eastern New York, thousands of people were expected to evacuate the flood-battered Binghamton area, and some schools were closed in the surrounding area.

Meanwhile, in the open Atlantic, Hurricane Katia brought rough surf to the East Coast but was not expected to make landfall in the US. Tropical Storm Maria also formed far out in the Atlantic, but it was too soon to tell if and where it might make landfall.


From Belfast Telegraph