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Storm slams East, snarls airlines

Mon., April 16, 2007, midnight

NEW YORK – A powerful nor’easter pounded the East with wind and rain Sunday, grounding airlines and threatening to create some of the worst coastal flooding some areas had seen in more than a decade.

The storm flooded people out of their homes in the middle of the night in West Virginia and trapped others. Other inland states faced a threat of heavy snow.

One person was killed as dozens of mobile homes were destroyed or damaged by wind in South Carolina. The storm system already had been blamed for five deaths on Friday in Kansas and Texas.

The Coast Guard had warned mariners to head for port because winds up to 55 mph were expected to generate seas up to 20 feet high, Petty Officer Etta Smith said Sunday in Boston.

Airlines canceled more than 400 flights at the New York area’s three major airports, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Kennedy Airport, on the wind-exposed south side of Long Island, had sustained winds of 30 to 35 mph with gusts to 48 mph, said weather service meteorologist Gary Conte.

The storm forced the cancellation of five major league baseball games Sunday and gave runners in today’s Boston Marathon something to worry about besides Heartbreak Hill. The race-day forecast called for 3 to 5 inches of rain, start temperatures in the 30s and wind gusts of up to 25 mph.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms extended from Florida up the coast to New England on Sunday. Wind gusted to 71 mph at Charleston, S.C., the weather service said.

Storm warnings and watches were posted all along the East Coast, with flood warnings extending from North Carolina to the New York area. Winter storm warnings were in effect for parts of New England and eastern New York state.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer sent 3,200 National Guard members to potential flood areas. On Saturday he said the storm could cause the most flooding New York has seen since a December 1992 nor’easter, which washed away beach and sand dunes, knocked out power and left thousands of people temporarily homeless, their houses standing in feet of water.

Some residents of low-lying areas along the New Jersey shore packed up to leave.

Several highways were flooded around New Jersey. “We have crews out there helping disabled motorists, but my one word of advice is to stay home,” said state Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri.

The storm also caused flash flooding in the mountains of southern West Virginia, where emergency services personnel rescued nearly two dozen people from homes and cars in Logan and Boone counties early Sunday. Two people were unaccounted for.

“It’s about as bad as it can get,” said Logan, W.Va., Fire Chief Scott Beckett. “This thing came down at 2 or 3 in the morning, when people were sleeping in their beds. They just didn’t know what was happening.”


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