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Storms Pound Pennsylvania, Maryland; 5 Die

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Four people apparently drowned and another was killed by lightning as flash floods and storms continued to plague Maryland and Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, Orion James, 36, died in Baltimore after he was struck by lightning at a construction site. Karen D. Roman, 36, of Emmitsburg, Md., was swept from her car on a water-covered bridge and discovered a mile downstream, and the body of an unidentified man was found in the Patapsco River in Catonsville, Md. Another body, apparently the man’s companion, was found a short time later.

On Tuesday night, 42-year-old Janice May Rhodes was killed in St. Thomas, Pa., when she drowned after she slipped off the hood of her car as rescuers tried to save her.

The deluge, which dumped up to 10 inches of rain in some areas, has caused evacuations, power outages and road closures.

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“This thing has wiped us out. We need some kind of federal help or something,” said Henry Physioc of Hagerstown Spring Works Co., an automotive service firm that had water lapping more than 4 feet up its walls.

Hit hardest by the powerful thunderstorms were sections of southern Pennsylvania. Gettysburg was swamped by 10.7 inches of rain in about six hours, according to the National Weather Service.

Gettysburg Mayor Francis Linn issued a declaration of disaster emergency, and residents were advised to boil tap water because of flooded wells. A sewage treatment facility was also damaged.

The historic site in south-central Pennsylvania is where the Civil War turned and President Lincoln later delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.

Walter Powell, historic preservation officer for Gettysburg, where Union and Confederate forces clashed in July 1863, said there was no damage to the national park’s battlefield or to its historic cemetery.

An apartment complex was flooded, leaving 35 residents homeless, said a Red Cross spokeswoman. Dozens of other area residents also had to be evacuated.

A record 2.25 inches fell Tuesday in Pittsburgh, Pa., breaking the old daily record of 1.56 inches set in 1932. Erie, Pa., also received a record amount Tuesday with 4.65 inches, breaking the 1957 daily record of 2.8 inches.

Bucks County, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, was declared a federal disaster area Tuesday because of flooding.

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Meanwhile, in North Carolina, residents were monitoring the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Tropical Storm Arthur lost strength as it neared the North Carolina coast Wednesday evening, and it was downgraded to tropical depression status before its center reached shore.

The storm was moving northeast at about 10 mph on a path over the Outer Banks before heading out to sea, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said. It was expected to gain speed as it moved east-northeast overnight.

Maximum sustained winds had dropped to near 35 mph with higher gusts, and all tropical storm warnings and watches were lifted, forecasters said.

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