Heavy rains swamp Northeast again as flash floods kill at least 5 in Pennsylvania

Flooding along a road in Phillipsburg, N.J.
Flooding hits a road Sunday in Phillipsburg, N.J., as more rains pound an already saturated Northeast.
(Jersey Central Power & Light)

Heavy rains pounded an already saturated Northeast on Sunday for the second time in a week, spurring another round of flash flooding, canceled airline flights and power outages. In Pennsylvania, a flash flood late Saturday afternoon claimed at least five lives.

Officials in Bucks County’s Upper Makefield Township in Pennsylvania said torrential rains occurred around 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the Washington Crossing area, sweeping away several cars. At least five people died and two children, a 9-month-old boy and his 2-year-old sister, remained missing, authorities said.

Other parts of the East Coast were experiencing heavy rain, including Vermont. Authorities there said landslides could become a problem as the state copes with more rain following days of flooding.


“There are flash flood warnings throughout the state today. Remain vigilant and be prepared,” Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said Sunday.

Sunday’s strong storms led to hundreds of flight cancellations at airports in the New York City area, according to the tracking service FlightAware. More than 350 flights were canceled at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey alone, while more than 280 flights were canceled at Kennedy International Airport in New York. Hundreds of flights were delayed.

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings and tornado watches for parts of Connecticut, western Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. A tornado warning was issued for an area along the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.

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Thousands of power outages also were reported.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul urged people to stay home Sunday until the storms passed.

“Here comes the rain. It just seems unrelenting this year,” she said. “You have to avoid unnecessary travel. ... A flash flood doesn’t give you warning ... and in those moments your car can go from a place of safety to a place of death.”

Hochul said 5 inches of rain fell within two hours in Suffolk County on Long Island. The state saw $50 million in damage from last week’s storms. Disaster declarations will cover more than a dozen New York counties.

Vermonters are working to dry out homes and businesses damaged by this week’s historic flooding and keeping a wary eye on the horizon with more rain expected in the coming days.

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Manchester, N.H., the largest city in northern New England, opened its emergency operations center in response to severe weather. Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and other officials urged residents to stay inside.


Flooding forced Tweed-New Haven Airport in Connecticut to close Sunday. The small airport, which offers daily commercial flights from one carrier, Avelo Airlines, said in a Twitter post that the terminal was closed until further notice. Several flights were delayed.

Flash flooding was reported in New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury and other Connecticut towns, leaving many roads impassable. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said he was headed to Bristol, home of ESPN, to view flooding.

In northern New Jersey, some roads were closed Sunday as crews worked to repair stretches of concrete that buckled under heavy rain and flooding. Local creeks washed over passageways, and a rockslide blocked Route 46. Thoroughfares were a mess of water and rocks covered in brown sludge.

In Pennsylvania, a sudden, torrential downpour turned deadly in Upper Makefield Township.

Fire Chief Tim Brewer told reporters that the area got about 6½ to 7 inches of rain in 45 minutes.

“In my 44 years, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “When the water came up, it came up very swiftly.”

About 4 to 5 feet of water washed over the road, and three of an estimated 11 cars were swept away. All three were later recovered, and no one was found inside, Brewer said. Eight people were rescued from the cars and two from the creek, he said.

The NOAA says an already warming Earth steamed to its hottest June on record, smashing the old global mark by nearly a quarter of a degree.

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The two children who remained missing Sunday are part of a Charleston, S.C., family visiting relatives and friends. They were on their way to a barbecue when their vehicle got stuck in the flash flood, Brewer said.

“As they tried to escape the fierce floodwaters, Dad took his 4-year-old son while the mother and the grandmother grabbed the two additional children, aged 9 months and 2 years,” he said. The father and son were “miraculously” able to get to safety. “However the grandmother, the mother and the two children were swept away by the floodwaters,” Brewer said. The mother was among those later found dead.

“We continue to look for the two children. We are not going to give up,” Brewer said.

Gov. Josh Shapiro vowed aid from state emergency and transportation officials. “All hands are on deck,” Shapiro said.


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In North Carolina, floodwaters were blamed for the death of a 49-year-old woman whose car was swept off a road in Alexander County late Saturday night. A man who was in the car with her was rescued.

Meanwhile, recovery efforts were underway in Vermont from recent days of heavy precipitation.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation said 12 state roads remained closed while 12 were partially open to one lane of traffic, and 87 that were previously closed have been reopened.