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Chelsea Owens navigated a kayak down a flooded street near her home in Gulf Breeze, Fla., on Thursday.

John Raoux • Associated Press,

Northeast hammered by rain from persistent storm

  • Article by: Alana Semuels and Michael Muskal
  • Los Angeles Times
  • May 1, 2014 - 6:15 PM

A week that started with deadly tornadoes ripping through the Midwest and South is ending with rain falling in almost biblical volumes in some states.

The major storm system causing the problems moved northward Thursday after causing 37 deaths and cutting a wide swath of destruction through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi earlier in the week, and then deluging the Florida Panhandle and the Alabama shore Wednesday.

Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York reported heavy downpours, and television stations broadcast images of flooded cars and streets severely damaged by the water.

“The storm system that brought heavy rain to parts of the Eastern U.S. over the past couple of days will continue to produce showers and thunderstorms from parts of the Mid-Atlantic southward to the Southeast coast on Thursday,” the National Weather Service reported. “The system will slowly move off the mid-Atlantic Coast by Friday morning.”

By midmorning, the storm had dumped 5.12 inches on New York’s Central Park. Parts of Nassau County, N.Y., got nearly 6 inches.

Commuters in New York had a tough ride into the city Thursday morning; a retaining wall at an apartment building collapsed in a mudslide, putting two tracks on the Hudson Line out of service. Speed restrictions were in place on a third rail line as crews worked to repair the track.

Meanwhile, cars that got stuck in flooded roads Wednesday night had to be towed by police through the day.

The severe weather began on Sunday as tornadoes formed in Oklahoma. One person died there, and the storm then spread to Arkansas, where 15 deaths were reported.

In all, at least 65 tornadoes hit the United States as a result of the storm system, according to a preliminary estimate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. At least 37 deaths in eight states were blamed on the storm.

At least 16 states, most in the South and the Midwest, were hit by the storm system in some way, officials said.

After the tornadoes, fierce rain hammered Florida and Alabama in what officials described as a deluge that occurs perhaps once every 25 years. Pensacola, Fla., saw about 22 inches, about a third of its annual rainfall, in 24 hours.

There were no immediate damage estimates from the widespread destruction, which included toppled businesses and homes, roads blown apart and vehicles destroyed.

Governors in the affected states have issued declarations of emergency and are expected to seek federal aid.

© 2014 Star Tribune