Waning Ida's downpours swamp Mid-Atlantic coast

RICHMOND, Va. — Relentless rain drenched much of the Atlantic seaboard Thursday, pelting communities from North Carolina northward with gusty winds and heavy rains, inundating streets and stranding drivers in hard-hit Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. — Relentless rain drenched much of the Atlantic seaboard Thursday, pelting communities from North Carolina northward with gusty winds and heavy rains, inundating streets and stranding drivers in hard-hit Virginia. The downpours were the continuing aftermath of late-season Tropical Storm Ida, which quickly weakened once it made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast on Tuesday but still soaked a swath from Alabama to Georgia. In Virginia, Gov. Timothy Kaine declared a state of emergency and officials urged people in some areas to stay home as rain was predicted to continue at least through Friday. Mari Rosadson, who works at the front desk of the Marriott Waterside in downtown Norfolk, said she and her friend encountered standing water during a commute that took twice as long as usual. "We made it through fine, thank God," she said. The most severe flooding Thursday was in coastal southeast Virginia, and officials warned it could continue through Friday evening. Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesman Bob Spieldenner said his agency received reports of a few Hampton Roads residents being rescued from their cars after getting stuck in high water. Similar incidents were reported in coastal Norfolk, where winds worsened high tides already 6 to 7 feet above normal. Flooding closed several streets, bridges and a major tunnel. "Each high tide is going to be worse, because the water’s going to keep building," Spieldenner said. The agency also monitored the potential for inland river flooding. In western Virginia, officials reported flooded streets and some people being pulled out of low-lying areas. The Roanoke River also was expected to flood Thursday. Dominion Power reported more than 21,000 outages in Virginia early Thursday, with more than half in southeast Virginia. Most Hampton Roads schools and universities canceled classes, and some businesses closed for the day. Meanwhile, Coast Guard officials continued searching for three commercial fishermen whose boat sank in churning seas off the coast of New Jersey. In North Carolina, where thousands of residents lost power at some point during the deluge, flood warnings were posted from the mountains to the coast, with trees down and some roads closed. Schools in several districts opened late. The Coast Guard on Wednesday plucked two people from a sailboat off the North Carolina coast, where seas had churned and winds gusted near 30 mph. Two other people remained with the boat as it was towed back to shore. The National Weather Service said Thursday morning that rainfall in some places on the coast was near 6 inches. In South Carolina, state health officials blamed the heavy rains for overwhelming sewage plants in the Columbia area, dumping some raw sewage into three rivers. In suburban Atlanta, streets and yards that border the Chattahoochee River filled with water as the river spilled over its banks from the rain. The area is still waterlogged from historic flooding in September, which swamped homes and businesses. In Delaware, power outages were reported and at least two inches of rain had fallen in parts of the state. Some low-lying areas already flooded, and wind gusts were as high as 55 mph. ___ Associated Press Writers Jack Jones in Columbia, S.C., Dorie Turner in Atlanta, Sue Lindsey in Roanoke, Va., and Sarah Brumfield in Washington contributed to this story. Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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