Storms ground hundreds of US flights

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The Independent US

A powerful storm pounded the eastern United States with wind and pouring rain today, threatening to create some of the worst coastal flooding in 14 years. It has been blamed for eight deaths across the US.

Airlines cancelled more than 500 flights yesterday at the New York area's three major airports, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Steve Coleman said. Dozens more were cancelled in Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere in New England.

In Rhode Island, storm-related high winds forced the shutdown of TF Green Airport early today. The winds damaged a construction area near the departure lounge on the second floor, airport spokeswoman Patti Goldstein said.

Up to 18 inches of heavy, wet snow was expected across the higher elevations of New England states Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. On the coast, strong winds and driving rain sent fishing boats to port, and residents prepared for coastal flooding.

New York City opened nine emergency storm shelters in flood-prone locations, and the ferry service to Fire Island was cancelled because of the storm. The New York-area commuter rail service was partially suspended for several hours because of flooding.

More than 5.5 inches of rain fell in the New York region by yesterday evening, the National Weather Service said.

One person was killed and four seriously injured in South Carolina as dozens of mobile homes were destroyed or damaged by one of three tornadoes in the state, and two died in car accidents - one in New York and one in Connecticut. The storm system already had been blamed for five deaths in Kansas and Texas on Friday.

The storm flooded people out of their homes in the middle of the night in West Virginia and trapped others. Some New Jersey residents along the shoreline were evacuated, and officials in Connecticut urged some coastal residents to do the same.

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin declared a state of emergency for all of the state last night.

Thousands of electricity customers lost power in states including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and North Carolina. Heavy rain and thunderstorms extended from Florida up the coast to New England yesterday.

The storm was expected to be the worst of its kind since one in December 1992, which caused millions of dollars worth of damage to buildings and forced thousands of evacuations.