RALEIGH, N.C. — A massive rainstorm drenched the East Coast from the Carolinas to Maine on Thursday, causing at least four deaths, flooding roads and washing away months of dry weather.
The worst of the rain fell in North Carolina, where Jacksonville picked up 12 inches — nearly a quarter of its typical annual rainfall — in six hours. Four people, including two children, were killed when the sport utility vehicle they were traveling in skidded off a rain-slicked highway and tumbled into a ditch filled with water, North Carolina troopers said.
Trooper Gary Edwards said a family of five was from Atlanta and was traveling westbound on U.S. 64 east of Creswell about 12:20 p.m. when their Jeep Cherokee hit a patch of standing water, hydroplaned and skidded off the highway into the ditch.
A fifth victim likely drowned when his pickup veered off the road into a river, officials said.
The rain was part of a system moving ahead of the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole, which dissipated over the Straits of Florida on Wednesday. Much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast were starting to move into a drought after the dry summer, and the fall storm provided several inches of needed rain.
Crews throughout the Northeast worked to pull fallen leaves from storm drains. Schools in North Carolina were closed, and some farther north planned to cancel classes today so students wouldn't have to travel on flooded roads. Baltimore Gas and Electric says about 40,000 of its Maryland customers have lost power.
Forecasters expected the system's heavy winds to spread up the coast, possibly toppling trees and power lines made unstable by the saturated ground.
Back-to-back storms have dropped a third of the rain Wilmington, N.C., usually gets all year in just five days. The 21 inches collected since Sunday was the highest five-day total in nearly 140 years of records, topping Hurricane Floyd's mark of 19 inches set in 1999, the National Weather Service said.