Tropical Depression Fred threatens mudslides in New York


A car attempts to drive through flood waters near Peachtree Creek near Atlanta, as Tropical Storm Fred makes its way through north and central Georgia on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Tropical Depression Fred blew into the northeastern U.S. on Wednesday, unleashing heavy rains and threatening to cause mudslides and flash floods in upstate New York after closing highways in the lower Appalachians. Dozens of people were rescued from flooded areas in North Carolina after downpours washed out bridges and swamped homes.

Unconfirmed tornados unleashed by the stormy weather already caused damage in places in Georgia and North Carolina on Tuesday as Fred moved north, well inland from the coastal areas that usually bear the brunt of tropical weather. One death was reported — a Las Vegas man whose car hydroplaned and flipped into a ditch near Panama City, Florida, hours after the storm moved ashore, Florida Highway Patrol said.

About 37,000 customers were without power Wednesday according to the utility tracker, most of them in West Virginia and North Carolina, where steady downpours swelled waterways and washed rocks and mud onto highways. Multiple landslides temporarily closed several westbound lanes on Interstate 40 and closed another highway Tuesday, according to the North Carolina transportation department.

The National Hurricane Center said Fred’s remnants moved into Pennsylvania by midday on Wednesday, and although the post-tropical cyclone no longer had much of a swirling center, it was still capable of spawning tornadoes and other dangerous weather.

Schools were closed and people evacuated along three rain-swollen rivers in far eastern Tennessee. “The areas around the Pigeon, French Broad and Nolichucky Rivers have become unsafe,” said the order from Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger, which was posted to Facebook late Tuesday by the Cocke County Emergency Management Agency. Four shelters were opened for people who needed a place to go.

Schools in Lincoln County, West Virginia also canceled classes Wednesday due to high water from heavy rains.

In North Carolina, dozens of water rescues were performed in the Asheville area and nearby towns. About 50 people were rescued in Buncombe County and authorities found another 10 cars abandoned in flooded roads where people apparently sought safety and had to leave their cars behind, said Taylor Jones, the county’s emergency services director. The town of Candler saw significant flooding, with impassible roads and two washed-out bridges preventing dozens of people from leaving their houses. No deaths or injuries were immediately reported.

To the west in the Canton area, a rescue team from the eastern part of the state performed water rescues of 15 adults, two children and several pets in the Canton area, New Hanover County Fire Rescue Chief Rudolph Shackelford said in a statement. Photos posted by the team showed rescue personnel in bright yellow vests staging rafts with outboard motors at the edge of yards that were submerged with muddy water up to the front doors of multiple homes. They also helped evacuate several apartment buildings threatened by floodwaters.

About 30 people were staying in shelters in two North Carolina counties.

As many as 14 possible tornadoes were reported across Georgia and the Carolinas on Tuesday, according to the weather service.

Meanwhile, Grace became a hurricane after unleashing torrential rain on earthquake-damaged Haiti. Grace’s sustained winds grew to 75 mph (120 kph) Wednesday as it moved away from the Cayman Islands, and was expected to strengthen before hitting Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula Thursday morning. A hurricane warning was in effect for the Yucatan from Cancun to Punta Herrero, including Cozumel.

Tropical Storm Henri, meanwhile, moved toward the U.S. coast, and forecasters said it’s now expected to become a hurricane by the weekend, on a path that’s more likely to affect the northeastern U.S. states. Henri was about 795 miles (1280 kilometers) south-southeast of Nantucket, Mass., on Wednesday. Its top sustained winds were holding steady at 65 mph (100 kph), but the hurricane center warned that life-threatening ocean swells could affect East Coast beaches later this week.


Associated Press writer Jeff Amy in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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