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Storm death toll rises; North Carolina city virtually underwater

From the CNN Wire Staff
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North Carolina hit with floods
  • Town in Bertie County, North Carolina, virtually underwater
  • At least eight deaths attributed to storm
  • CNN iReporters file dispatches from the scene
  • High wind warnings issued for parts of Northeast; airport delays likely

Read more about this story from CNN affiliates WRAL and WAVY. Share your photos and videos on iReport.

(CNN) -- A large storm system flooding portions of New York, Pennsylvania and New England on Friday afternoon has claimed at least eight lives, including seven in North Carolina, officials said.

Nowhere was the misery more evident than Bertie County in northeastern North Carolina, where water in places was almost to the top of stop signs.

The situation in the town of Windsor, which has about 2,000 residents, was dire Friday afternoon, said County Manager Zee Lamb.

Perhaps 175 people have been rescued from rising floodwaters since Thursday night, Lamb said. "A lot of people cannot get to their homes."

Gallery: Downpour causes flooding
Video: Trapped residents rescued by boats
Video: Maryland flooding damage
Video: Flooding hits U.S. East Coast
  • Floods
  • North Carolina

Rescue shelters were set up and animals in a small zoo were taken to higher ground.

Dramatic video footage showed the damage and the Cashie River, which is about 16 feet above flood stage. Most roads to the town were closed or partially closed.

"The county library is under 5 feet of water in the town of Windsor," Lamb said. "You cannot get to the courthouse by road. I got here by boat today."

Many businesses in the city are underwater, said Lamb, adding the county has asked the state for emergency assistance. Some buildings had water 6 to 7 feet deep on their first floor. Historic homes in the town were damaged.

Townspeople were surprised by the extent of the flooding, Lamb said.

"[Hurricane] Floyd [in 1999] was supposed to be the 100-year-old flood. Eleven years later we have another major flood."

The storm system was dropping heavy rain in the Northeast as the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole interacted with an upper-level low and a frontal boundary. An advisory from the National Weather Service said up to three more inches of rain may fall in the region.

Flood watches and warnings were in effect from the mid-Atlantic states to Maine. High-wind warnings were in effect from Massachusetts to Maine, with wind gusts up to 60 mph. Boston was already feeling the effects, although the rain was expected to clear by Saturday morning.

Philadelphia and much of eastern and central Pennsylvania were deluged by rainfall and a motorist died after driving into floodwaters near Skippack Creek, state troopers said.

Troopers saw the vehicle floating near a golf course but were unable to reach the female driver, who was later found dead.

Police said a 72-year-old woman was trapped for more than eight hours inside her car in Cumru Township before she escaped, according to WFMZ. The outlook was for clearer skies later in the day.

A weather-related accident Thursday claimed four lives in Washington County, North Carolina, where a Jeep Grand Cherokee hydroplaned and ended up in a ditch filled with water. Four of five people in the SUV drowned. They were from Gwinnett County, Georgia.

A 3-year-old survived and was hospitalized Friday, officials said.

Two motorists died in Dare County on Friday, and another was killed in Pamlico County, said Julia Jarema, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management.

About 150 roads were in North Carolina at one point were closed and some people were evacuated in Bertie County, said Patty McQuillan, communications officer for the state's Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

Major road closures included U.S. 158 in Elizabeth City, U.S. 264 in Beaufort County and U.S. 17 in Windsor.

In Swansboro, North Carolina, eight people were rescued, an emergency management official said. That scene repeated itself in a few other North Carolina and Virginia communities.

Airport delays are expected to be crippling in the Northeast again, with ground stops and delays of three hours or more at the New York City airports and in Boston, Massachusetts.

Baltimore, Maryland -- at 6.02 inches -- on Thursday had its wettest September day ever. Norfolk, Virginia, endured nearly 12 inches of rainfall. CNN affiliate WUSA showed images of flooding in St. Mary's County, Maryland.

Rain left city streets underwater, stranded vehicles and sent scores of people to shelters and caused major delays at airports along the East Coast.

Skies were beginning to clear Friday in much of the Carolinas and Virginia.

Wilmington, North Carolina, has received 22.54 inches of rain since Sunday, the National Weather Service said. September's total of 22.72 inches was shy of the record 23.41 inches in 1999.

"Water-wise, it was significant," said Warren Lee, emergency management director for New Hanover County, which includes three beach communities. Monday was actually worse than Thursday, said Lee, because the heavy rain hit bone-dry ground and sparked flash flooding.

Crews will do a damage assessment Friday, he said, indicating there were few evacuations and little wind damage.

Sixty miles up the coast, there was extensive flooding in Swansboro, according to Norman Bryson with Onslow County Emergency Management. The town was completely cut off to vehicular traffic.

In Carolina Beach, a lake overflowed and flooded downtown, a video from CNN affiliate WRAL showed one person kayaking through the streets. U.S. 421 remained closed Friday morning.

Carolina Beach Town Manager Tim Owens said the weather was improving Friday and the town expects tourists to return for the weekend. He said some residents near the retention lake likely have some flood damage. "We fared pretty well," he said.

CNN iReporters snapped flood photos and told their tales.

In upstate New York, Esopus Creek, a tributary of the Hudson River, overflowed and flooded shops and homes in downtown Phoenicia, said Kevin Keaveny.

"I've never seen the water come up to the streets," he said.

Margaret Pelczynski of Buffalo, New York, was visiting Carolina Beach. "This only confirms my beliefs that I'd gladly take a blizzard any day over this rain, wind and flooding," she wrote.

And William Bernstein Jr. posted photos of Virginia Beach, Virginia. He said there were rescues Thursday and trees down in the Tidewater area. "I believe this will be one we will remember a long time," he wrote.

In Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia, many streets were flooded, as were stretches of Interstate 264, according to CNN Virginia affiliate WAVY 10. Some in the area are without power because of downed lines.

Chris Hauser of Suffolk told WAVY he woke up to find water in his garage and up to 14 inches of water in his back yard, which is near a lake.

As he stood on wooden planks just above the floodwater, Hauser quipped, "Now I have my dock that I always thought about building."

CNN's Shawn Nottingham, Angela Fritz, Dave Alsup, Phil Gast, Taylor Ward and Scott Thompson contributed to this report.