Major cleanup underway after storm batters Northeastern US, knocks out power and floods roads


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Utility crews worked Tuesday to restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers in Maine and some rivers continued to rise following a powerful storm that hit the northeastern U.S., drenching communities and bringing windspeeds over 60 mph (96 kph) in some areas. At least five people were killed.

“It was pretty loud, the wind was pretty strong, branches are breaking, things are flapping outside,” said Drew Landry of Hallowell, Maine, who lost power and was looking at a street that was under water Tuesday. “All the basements are pretty much flooded.”

Many communities were saturated, with some getting well over 3 inches of rain during the storm. Some towns in Vermont, which had suffered major flooding from a storm in July, were seeing more flood damage. Some school districts remained closed on Tuesday.

Hallowell, just south of the state capital of Augusta, is along the Kennebec River, which was well over flood stage and still rising.

Nathan Sennett, a cook at the Quarry Tap Room in town, was wading through hip-deep water to move furniture from a flooded patio and deal with a change in holiday-related business.

“We were supposed to have a couple of parties today and tomorrow, and just kind of sporadically throughout the weekend,” he said. “But obviously, we've had to cancel those.”

More than 5 inches of rain fell in parts of New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania, and parts of several other states got more than 4 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Streets were flooded in some communities. Wind gusts reached nearly 70 mph along the southern New England shoreline.

In New Jersey, a house surrounded by floodwaters caught fire Tuesday morning in Lincoln Park and was engulfed by flames. Firefighters were unable to get to it. Police said the house was unoccupied.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills closed state offices Tuesday to allow time for power restoration and cleanup efforts from the storm, which took down many trees and closed roads.

“We are expecting a multi-day recovery effort at this point," she said, encouraging people to stay off the roads.

Pete Chagnon, 75, in Oxford, Maine, helped a couple of people remove a tree that was blocking a road, one of many that had fallen in his neighborhood. He moved there in 2015 from Burlington, Vermont.

“Since moving here, I have seen some wicked storms but yesterday took the cake,” said Chagnon, who lost power, but had a generator.

Some rivers in the region crested. The Androscoggin River in Rumford, Maine, reached a maximum stage of 22 feet in a 24-hour period ending early Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Flood stage is 15 feet. The river was expected to fall below flood stage Tuesday afternoon.

The Kennebec River at Augusta was expected to reach a crest of 25 feet Thursday evening, the weather service said. Flood stage is 12 feet.

Police in the central Maine town of Fairfield along the river issued a voluntary evacuation order for some areas.

Five months after flooding inundated Vermont’s capital city of Montpelier, water entered the basements of some downtown businesses as the city monitored the level of the Winooski River, officials said. Sandbags were back out on the streets, just in case the streets flooded.

“I just don't want to go through what we went through again,” said Karen Williams, owner of Woodbury Mountain Toys, which flooded in July. The business relocated across the street and reopened in October. “People are just opening up again.”

Williams' new location is about a foot higher. This time, she just got a couple of inches of water in her basement, and a pump worked to get it out.

“Although there will be damage to infrastructure, homes and businesses, we do not expect this to be the same scale as July,” Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said. “That being said, some of the places that were impacted in July are currently experiencing flooding once again. So for them, this is July and it’s a real gut punch.”

Authorities in northwestern Connecticut said they responded to numerous accidents Tuesday morning as roads drenched from Monday’s rain froze and created slippery conditions.

But elsewhere, as rain and river levels rose, so did the temperatures Monday, setting some records. It reached 62 degrees in Concord, New Hampshire, breaking the record of 59 set on Dec. 18, 1928, the National Weather Service said. It got to 59 degrees in Portland, Maine on Monday, topping the record of 53 degrees set on Dec. 18, 1996.

Conditions were expected to remain calm the next few days.

Early in the storm, the weather service issued flood and flash-flood warnings for New York City and the surrounding area, parts of Pennsylvania, upstate New York, western Connecticut, western Massachusetts and parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

An 89-year-old Hingham, Massachusetts, man was killed early Monday when high winds caused a tree to fall on a trailer, authorities said. In Windham, Maine, police said part of a tree fell and killed a man who was removing debris from his roof. Another man in Fairfield, Maine, died while trying to move a storm-downed tree with a tractor, news outlets reported, citing a news release from authorities.

In Catskill, New York, a driver was killed after the vehicle went around a barricade on a flooded road and was swept into the Catskill Creek, the Times Union reported. A man was pronounced dead in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, after he was found in a submerged vehicle Monday morning.

On Sunday in South Carolina, one person died when their vehicle flooded on a road in a gated community in Mount Pleasant.