National

Storms swamp East Coast, kill four

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.

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 much-needed rain.

In Walpole, N.H., Erin Bickford said the deluge was a welcome sight for her eight acres of vegetables. She said she hoped the moisture also would recharge wells that went dry in the town.

"We had almost no rain at all. Often, we could see it raining across the river, but it didn't come here. It was just dust. Even if it did rain, it would be a tiny bit, maybe half an inch," she said.

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.

Josh Barnello, 12, used his day off to take a look at a pond that overflowed its banks in Carolina Beach.

"Someone was paddling a canoe down the street earlier," said Barnello, a budding meteorologist who used a wind speed gauge he got for Christmas to record gusts of 53 mph near his house.

Forecasters expected those heavy winds to spread up the coast, possibly toppling trees and power lines made unstable by the saturated ground.

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