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Isaias spawns deadly tornado, brings flooding and widespread power outages

Isaias brings strong winds and heavy rain
Tropical Storm Isaias brings strong winds and heavy rain to East Coast 04:36

Isaias spawned tornadoes and dumped rain along the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina, where it smashed boats together and caused floods and fires that displaced dozens of people. At least six people were killed.

About 12 hours after coming ashore, the storm was still sustaining near-hurricane-strength top winds of 70 mph late Tuesday morning, and its forward march accelerated to 35 mph. "Potentially life-threatening urban flooding is possible in D.C., Baltimore and elsewhere along and just west of the I-95 corridor today," the National Hurricane Center warned.

By 2 a.m. Wednesday, the storm had been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone and was nearing southeastern Quebec. The system is moving north-northeast at around 35 mph with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

Forecasters had issued clear warnings earlier, as Isaias approached land, urging people to heed the danger of "life-threatening storm surge inundation" along the coasts of North and South Carolina.

Some veterans of earlier storms were under the impression nevertheless that their areas would be spared.

Tropical Weather North Carolina
Boats are piled on each other at the Southport Marina following the effects of Hurricane Isaias in Southport, North Carolina, on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Gerry Broome / AP

Royce Potter, a fifth-generation seafood purveyor and owner of Potter's Seafood in Southport, said he rode out the storm on a boat docked near his business, which was damaged by the wind and water.

"They got this wrong," Potter said, visibly shaken. "I've ridden storms out here for years."

The storm surge and wind damage actually matched what the hurricane center predicted, leaving dozens of boats piled up against the docks, and many decks facing out on the water were smashed.

Two people were killed and several others were unaccounted for after a tornado destroyed 10 mobile homes in Windsor, North Carolina, according to officials in Bertie County.

Bertie County Emergency Management Director Mitch Cooper said, "We want to emphasize that this is not a recovery mission, and rescues are still taking place which is why it is increasingly important to steer clear of the area.

Deputies were going door-to-door Tuesday morning trying to account for all the residents in the community, CBS affiliate WNCN-TV reported.

An aerial shot by WRAL-TV showed fields of debris where rescue workers in brightly colored shirts picked through splintered boards and other wreckage. Nearby, a vehicle was flipped onto its roof, its tires pointed up in the air.

"It doesn't look real, it looks like something on TV. Nothing is there," Holley told reporters. "All my officers are down there at this time. Pretty much the entire trailer park is gone."

One person died in Pennsylvania when their vehicle was overtaken by water and swept downstream. Two others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland and New York City, and a sixth person died in Delaware when a tree branch fell on them, authorities said.

The hurricane's eye moved over land near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, just after 11 p.m. on Monday with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. Many homes were flooded and at least five caught fire in the city, Mayor Debbie Smith told WECT-TV, and firefighters from Horry County, South Carolina crossed the state line to help out, their spokesman, Tony Casey, told The Associated Press.

Forecasters expected the storm to hold its strength and spin off damaging winds on a path into New England on Tuesday night.

"We don't think there is going to be a whole lot of weakening, we still think there's going to be very strong and gusty winds that will affect much of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast over the next day or two," hurricane specialist Robbie Berg told AP.

Tornadoes were confirmed by the national weather service in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware and New Jersey. Power outages also spread as trees fell, with more than 600,000 customers losing electricity, most of them in North Carolina and Virginia, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.

One person was killed in Delaware when they were struck by a falling tree branch after going outside to assess the damage from the storm, according to Delaware State Police.

Wicomico County in Maryland was under a tornado warning Tuesday morning when a suspected tornado touched down near Vienna in Mardela Springs, according to reports from WBOC in Salisbury.

In Charles County, Maryland, emergency workers rescued a man and woman after floodwaters swept two cars off the road. The woman was found clinging to a tree limb and the man was on the roof of the car, said Bill Smith, a county fire department spokesman.
Other motorists had to be rescued as roads suddenly flooded in the Philadelphia area. Further north, in Lehigh County, one motorist was killed after driving into high water and being swept downstream, the county coroner said in a statement. The threat of heavy wind and rain prompted the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to ban car-pulled trailers and motorcycles.

In New York City, the Staten Island Ferry suspended service Tuesday as bands of wind and rain swept through the city. Temporary barriers were set up to protect Wall Street and the famed South Street Seaport from potential flooding.

Isaias (pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs) toggled between tropical storm and hurricane strength throughout its path to the U.S. coast, killing two people in the Caribbean and trashing the Bahamas before brushing past Florida.

Most of the significant damage seemed to be east and north of where the hurricane's eye struck land.

Tropical Storm Isaias
A Philadelphia police officer rushes to help a stranded motorist during Tropical Storm Isaias, on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, in Philadelphia.  Matt Slocum / AP

Governor Roy Cooper said Tuesday morning that Brunswick, Pender and Onslow counties, along North Carolina's southeast coast, were among the hardest hit with storm surge, structure fires and reports of tornadoes. About two dozen shelters were open due to the storm, he said.

Eileen and David Hubler were out early Tuesday cleaning up in North Myrtle Beach, where the storm surge topped four feet, flooding cars, unhinging docks and etching a water line into the side of their home.

"When the water started coming, it did not stop," she told AP. They had moved most items of value to their second floor, but a mattress and washing machine were unexpected storm casualties. Eileen Hubler said Isaias' incoming wrath was downplayed, and she wishes she would have followed her gut.

"We keep thinking we've learned our lesson. And each time there's a hurricane, we learn a new lesson. The new lesson is you never trust that you're going to have a 2-foot storm surge," she said.

On North Carolina's Oak Island, deputies had to rescue five adults and three children after the storm hit, causing damage along the beachfront and knocking electricity and sewer facilities offline, authorities said.

Further up the coast, about 30 people were displaced by a fire at a condominium complex in Surf City, news outlets reported. It wasn't immediately clear if the fires were connected to the storm. No injuries have been reported.

And in Suffolk, Virginia, near the coast, multiple homes were damaged by falling trees, and city officials received reports of a possible tornado. A fire station downtown sustained damage including broken window. A photo posted by city officials showed a pile of bricks lying next to a damaged business.

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