Flooding deluged Pa. and WV towns, prompting rescues and calls to get to higher ground

The storms were part of a sweeping weather system that plunged parts of Florida underwater early Thursday morning.

ByElizabeth Wolfe, Robert Shackelford and Mary Gilbert, CNN
Friday, April 12, 2024
Heavy rain causes flooding in Pa.
Flash flood warnings stretched across western parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh

Emergency crews in parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania waded through murky floodwaters to rescue residents as storms unleashed downpours that blanketed streets and gushed into homes and businesses Thursday night, officials said.

The storms were part of a sweeping weather system that plunged parts of Florida underwater early Thursday morning, a day after it churned up multiple destructive tornadoes and brought flooding and widespread power outages across the Gulf Coast.

Flash flood warnings stretched across western parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh Thursday night but were canceled early Friday morning as heavy rain tapered to showers.

Heavy rainfall will target parts of New England Friday before the system exits the US Saturday.

Flash flood emergencies - the most significant flood alert possible - were issued in the western Pittsburgh suburbs of Oakdale and Coraopolis.

Rescue crews in Oakdale deployed boats to go door-to-door Thursday evening looking for people who may need to be evacuated, CNN affiliate KDKA reported. Flood currents in the area were strong enough to carry a floating dumpster through the streets and could nearly reach the bottom of stop signs, footage captured by the affiliate shows.

Oakdale resident Megan De La Torre said the damage to homes and businesses is hard to watch.

"I grew up in this area and have lived right here for years. This is devastating. This is going to affect so many things," she told KDKA.

In nearby Pittsburgh, emergency units rescued a woman who became trapped as her car began sinking in rising floodwaters, Pittsburgh Public Safety said. The city had received nearly 3 inches of rain Thursday, making it Pittsburgh's wettest April day on record.

The weather service also warned of life-threatening flash flooding of highways, streets and underpasses in several West Virginia counties, including Boone, Cabell and Jackson. Emergency crews in the area reported water rescues, the agency said.

In South Charleston, West Virginia, video showed floodwaters blanketing roads and parking lots during torrential rain late Thursday.

The storms brought damaging wind gusts to portions of the East in addition to heavy rainfall. More than 60,000 homes and businesses were without power Friday morning, down from a peak of nearly 120,000 Thursday night, according to PowerOutage.us. In Louisiana, which was hard-hit by storms Wednesday, 20,000 were still without power.

Storms also produced tornadoes in Florida Thursday. A tornado damaged homes in at least one Florida neighborhood in an area north of St. Augustine late in the morning, St. John's County fire officials said. Another tornado was observed just north of Tampa in the early afternoon.

A flash flood emergency warning of life-threatening flooding was issued in the Tallahassee, Florida, area, where more than a month's worth of rain fell in the city in just two hours early Thursday morning. The city sees 3.52 inches in a typical April, but over 7 inches fell there since Wednesday night.

Multiple flash flood emergencies were issued on Wednesday, including in New Orleans, as incredibly moist storms deluged parts of Texas and Louisiana. The severe weather also struck Mississippi, leaving two people dead and damaging at least 179 homes, the state's emergency management agency said.

Wednesday and Thursday's storms packed almost double the moisture found in typical spring storms in the region. The added moisture helped the storms to unload torrential, flooding rainfall.

As the atmosphere continues to warm due to human-caused climate change it's able to soak up more moisture like a towel and then ring it out in the form of more extreme gushes of rainfall, increasing the chance of flooding.

Storms carve a path of destruction

As the storms bulldozed from Texas to Mississippi Wednesday, they left damage and destruction in their wake.

At least five tornadoes occurred in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama Wednesday as the storms caused widespread power outages and damage to homes and businesses across parts of the Gulf Coast.

At least 10 people were injured when an EF1 tornado ripped through Slidell, Louisiana, police said. Storms left city roads scattered with trees and power lines and rising water levels prompted first responders to organize water rescues, Slidell police spokesperson Daniel Seuzeneau said.

Tornadoes also churned up in Saint Francisville and around Lake Charles, Louisiana, the National Weather Service said.

Another EF1 tornado struck a stretch of businesses in the Houston suburb of Katy, Texas. No injuries were reported Wednesday, but the storm damaged a strip mall and a neighboring car repair shop, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeffry Evans. Images show a large portion of the businesses' roof collapsed into the parking lot and surrounded by rubble and metal debris.

Across Mississippi, more than 70 homes have been reported damaged or destroyed, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday.

Torrential downpours also triggered treacherous flooding in parts of Texas and Louisiana, where officials rushed to perform water rescues as roads turned to rivers.

In New Orleans, water spilled into the streets as exceptional rainfall overwhelmed the city's complex network of water pumps and other aging flood-mitigating infrastructure, the city's Sewerage and Water Board said.

New Orleans saw one of several daily rainfall records that were broken across the South on Wednesday. The city's Louis Armstrong International Airport received 6.44 inches - almost triple its previous record.

CNN's Taylor Ward, Monica Garrett, Caroll Alvarado, Sara Smart, Rachel Ramirez, Jacob Lev, Rosa Flores, Sara Weisfeldt, Devon Sayers and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

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