At least six people have died, and two children remain missing after slow-moving thunderstorms took aim at the East Coast and unleashed an epic deluge of water across several communities over the weekend. Deadly flash floods swept away dozens of vehicles and hundreds of flights were canceled.
Some of the worst flooding occurred on a localized basis in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, specifically in Upper Makefield Township, located north of Philadelphia and near the New Jersey border. Officials there said torrential floodwaters Saturday evening in the Washington Crossing area swept away several vehicles. At least five people died and two children — a 9-month-old boy and his 2-year-old sister — were still missing as of Monday morning.
In a news conference Sunday afternoon, Upper Makefield Fire Chief Tim Brewer said the two missing children were part of a family visiting from Charleston, South Carolina. The family became trapped in the flash flood while they were on their way to a barbecue.
The grandmother and father were able to escape with the four-year-old son, and the mother took the two younger children. However, according to officials, the mother and the two children were swept away by floodwaters. The mother’s body was among the five that have been recovered.
Brewer said about 6 to 7 inches of rain fell within a two-hour period across parts of the area Saturday evening.
“In my 44 years, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Brewer at a press conference. “When the water came up, it came up very swiftly.”
The identities of the five people who were killed in the floodwaters this weekend have not been released.
In a press conference Monday morning, Brewer said that the children have yet to be found. According to Brewer, the quieter weather Monday will allow for more resources to be deployed in the search for the missing children.
“We have been able to triple the assets deployed as our search areas widens,” said the Upper Makefield Township Police Department in a Facebook post. “We have search teams on foot, teams in boats searching the Delaware River, we are utilizing drone teams, diver teams, and sonar technology. Every effort will be made to bring these beautiful children home to their families.”
Emergency crews were dispatched to a water rescue north of Charlotte, in Alexander County, North Carolina, just before 11:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, WSOC reported. Once on scene, crews located one person clinging to a tree. A raft was deployed, and the victim was saved and eventually treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
The victim told officials that another person had jumped out of the vehicle they were both in and entered the water. After an extensive search, the body of 49-year-old Lisa Michelle Riahi was found about 2 miles away from the scene.
According to Alexander County Emergency Management, 7.3 inches of rainfall was reported in the area of the incident.
Torrential downpours took aim at the storm-weary Northeast and inundated communities from New Jersey to Maine. Hundreds of flights and a handful of events were canceled due to the flooding rainfall.
Tweed-New Haven, a small airport located in New Haven, Connecticut, closed Sunday afternoon after rounds of showers and high tide flooded the only runway at the airport.
“[Tweed-New Haven Airport] acts as a collection bowl for neighborhood floodwaters,” officials from the airport wrote on Twitter. “High tide needs to recede to open tide gates to drain water through waterways.”
As of Monday morning, the airport announced that floodwaters had receded and it was “fully operational” again.
In addition to the cancelations at Tweed airport, nearly 800 other flights were canceled Sunday across the Northeast. Newark Liberty Airport, located in Newark, New Jersey, led the entire world in flight cancelations with 180 as of Sunday evening, according to FlightAware.
In New York City, John F. Kennedy Airport had 159 flight cancelations, making up 21% of origin flights at the airport. LaGuardia Airport, also in New York City, and Boston Logan International Airport exceeded 100 flight cancelations as well Sunday evening.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul urged people to stay off the roads Sunday until the storms had passed. According to Hochul, 5 inches of rain fell within two hours in Suffolk County, located on Long Island, Sunday morning.
“Here comes the rain. It just seems unrelenting this year,” said Hochul in a press briefing. “A flash flood doesn’t give you warning…you have to avoid unnecessary travel.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency for the entire state Sunday due to the severe weather. Murphy said in a tweet that the state was hit by hazardous weather conditions including intense rainfall, flash flooding and dangerous winds.
There was a report of vehicles stuck near New Brunswick, New Jersey, due to flooding Sunday afternoon. In Edison, New Jersey, the right lane of Interstate 287 southbound north of Exit 1 was closed due to flooding.
A NASCAR Cup Series race in Loudon, New Hampshire, was postponed due to the storms inundating the Northeast, according to NASCAR. The Crayon 301 race was originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon and will now be held at noon Monday.
The area was under a flash flood warning, areal flood watch and a tornado watch Sunday afternoon, with the tornado watch expiring at 3 p.m. EDT, a half hour after the race was originally supposed to begin.
About an hour and a half north of Loudon, in Madison, New Hampshire, extreme meteorologist Reed Timmer said torrential rain caused flash floods that broke apart highways and covered roads in rocks and debris.
In a video shared by Timmer, half of Highway 113 was turned into a raging river while rocks covered the entire roadway. According to Timmer, the water was rushing off Highway 113 and onto a property just below the road.
“All this flow is going down into a home,” said Timmer. “There are vehicles buried in feet of dirt and rock.”
As recovery efforts continued in Vermont from recent floods, more rain moved into the hard-hit state. The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Burlington, Vermont, warned of the possibility of additional landslides amid the recent rounds of heavy rainfall in the area.
The warning came a few days after a landslide destroyed one home in Ripton and impacted over a dozen others Friday, prompting the evacuation of homeowners, according to NBC5.
A thunderstorm unleashed a deluge of rainfall Friday, with radar estimates between 3-3.5 inches falling over the Ripton area. Intense and prolonged rainfall can often trigger landslides and debris flows.
As storms rolled into Massachusetts early Sunday morning, the NWS issued a tornado watch for a large swath of New England. Severe thunderstorms moved across central Massachusetts, which prompted a few tornado warnings Sunday morning.
At least one tornado touched down just before 11 a.m. EDT in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, which is located between Springfield and Boston.
According to the NWS office in Boston, the EF0 twister damaged trees in the area, but no injuries were reported.
Produced in association with AccuWeather
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