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East Coast storm causes major flooding across the Northeast

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Strong winds and heavy rain that swept up the East Coast this week knocked out power, closed roads and flooded parts of almost every state that touches the Atlantic Ocean. Emergencies were declared in some states. And in Maine, where more than 400,000 people, more than a third of the state, were without electricity, they're still taking stock of the damage. Here's Maine Public Radio's Patty Wight.

PATTY WIGHT, BYLINE: Public works crews were busy Tuesday morning in the central Maine city of Lewiston, using excavators to clear roads of downed trees that fell amidst 60-mile-an-hour winds. Lewiston Public Works' Reggie Poussard called the damage from the storm extensive.

REGGIE POUSSARD: I've seen a lot of storms. I would say this storm is an 8 out of 10 from what I've seen so far.

WIGHT: Poussard says the biggest challenge for the city is the variety of issues they're managing - clearing roads, fixing streetlights, repairing toppled signs and managing downed wires. Residents also have plenty to deal with.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHAINSAW BUZZING)

WIGHT: Mike Brooks uses a chainsaw to carve apart a massive pine tree that crashed down onto his driveway during the storm, ripping down the power line to his house and blocking in his family's cars. The tree is roughly three feet in diameter, and it narrowly missed his neighbors on either side.

MIKE BROOKS: Best place it could have hit. It could have hit his house. It could have went that way, could have taken us out and - landed in the best spot it could have.

WIGHT: Even though Brooks lost power, he says he was prepared with battery backups. So his house has lights and heat.

BROOKS: You know, all the food's on ice in coolers and just take it from there. It's kind of like a little adventure, a little camping adventure.

WIGHT: But other residents faced situations that were more dire.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER RUSHING)

WIGHT: The heavy rain, combined with melting snowpack from the western Maine mountains, caused severe flooding in parts of the state. Sarah Breton of Lewiston watched the Androscoggin River swamp a car when a driver got stuck in front of her apartment.

SARAH BRETON: He almost got through the whole puddle, and then his car died. And he's been stuck - he was stuck in there for about an hour.

WIGHT: Some residents in Rumford had to be rescued from their homes due to flooding, and a nursing home in Canton had to evacuate more than 90 residents to a local high school.

DEREK SCHROETER: So this is definitely a top-tier, high-impact event in terms of rainfall and flood damage across the area.

WIGHT: National Weather Service meteorologist Derek Schroeter says the devastating storm is similar to one that hit Maine last December, and it comes after multiple heavy rainstorms during the summer. It's part of a trend identified in climate change models, he says, that find precipitation in the Northeast is increasing, and the vast majority of it falls during intense storm events.

For NPR News, I'm Patty Wight in Lewiston, Maine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Patty Wight // Maine Public