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Hurricane Isaias spawns tornadoes along U.S. East Coast, at least 4 dead

At least four people were killed as tropical storm Isaias spawned tornadoes and dumped rain Tuesday along the U.S. East Coast after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina, where it caused floods and fires that displaced dozens of people.

2 people dead after tornado strikes mobile home park, 2 others killed by falling trees

Hurricane Isaias has been downgraded to a tropical storm. Forecasters warn of flooding, power outages and tornadoes. 2:57

At least four people were killed as tropical storm Isaias spawned tornadoes and dumped rain Tuesday along the U.S. East Coast after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina, where it caused floods and fires that displaced dozens of people.

Two people died when Isaias spun off a tornado that struck a North Carolina mobile home park. Authorities said two others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland and New York City.

Isaias sustained top winds of up to 105 km/h more than 18 hours after coming ashore, but it was down to 80 km/h max winds as of 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm's centre was passing through the middle of Vermont, moving north-northeast at about 65 km/h.

As Isaias sped northward at 56 km/h, the National Hurricane Center warned of flash flood threats in New York's Hudson River Valley and potential for minor to moderate river flooding elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region.

In Philadelphia, the Schuylkill River was projected to crest early Wednesday at 4.7 metres, its highest level in more than 150 years. By Tuesday night, the river had already overtopped its banks in low-lying Manayunk, turning bar-lined Main Street into a coffee-coloured canal.

Two people died after a tornado demolished several mobile homes in Windsor, N.C. Emergency responders finished searching the wreckage Tuesday afternoon. They found no other casualties, and several people initially feared missing had all been accounted for, said Ron Wesson, chair of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners. He said about 12 people were hospitalized.

Sharee and Jeffrey Stilwell took shelter in their living room about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday as the tornado tore through Windsor. Sharee Stillwell said their home shook "like a freight train."

Boats are piled on top of each other at the Southport Marina following the effects of Hurricane Isaias in Southport, N.C., early Tuesday. (Gerry Broome/The Associated Press)

"I felt like the house was going to cave in," said Jeffrey Stillwell, 65, though once the storm passed, the couple found only a few damaged shingles and fallen tree branches in the yard.

The mobile home park three kilometres away wasn't so fortunate. Aerial video by WRAL-TV showed fields of debris where rescue workers in brightly coloured shirts picked through splintered boards and other wreckage. Nearby, a vehicle was flipped onto its roof.

"It doesn't look real; it looks like something on TV. Nothing is there," Bertie County Sheriff John Holley told reporters, saying 10 mobile homes had been destroyed. "All my officers are down there at this time. Pretty much the entire trailer park is gone."

In New York City, a massive tree fell and crushed a van in the Briarwood section of Queens, killing a man inside, police said. A woman in Mechanicsville, Md., died when a tree crashed onto her car during stormy conditions, said Cpl. Julie Yingling of the St. Mary's County sheriff's office.

Widespread power outages, fires reported

Isaias toggled between hurricane and tropical storm strength as it churned toward the East Coast. Fuelled by warm ocean waters, the storm got a late burst of strength as a rejuvenated hurricane with top sustained winds of 136 km/h before coming ashore late Monday near Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.

Many homes flooded in Ocean Isle Beach and at least five caught fire, Mayor Debbie Smith told WECT-TV.

Firefighters walk through a flooded neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pa., on Tuesday after tropical storm Isaias moved through. (Matt Slocum/The Associated Press)

Before making landfall late Monday, Isaias killed two people in the Caribbean and battered the Bahamas before brushing past Florida. On Tuesday, it remained a tropical storm on a path into New England.

"We don't think there is going to be a whole lot of weakening. We still think there's going to be very strong and gusty winds that will affect much of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast over the next day or two," hurricane specialist Robbie Berg told AP.

Tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. Power outages also spread as trees fell, with more than 2.8 million customers losing electricity across multiple states, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.

In Doylestown, Pa., officials said four children were treated for minor injuries after high winds partially tore the roof off a daycare centre. Also in the Philadelphia suburbs, rescue workers in Delaware County were searching for a young person who fell or jumped into the fast-moving water of a swollen creek, said Timothy Boyce, the county emergency services director.

In New York City, fierce wind and rain forced the Staten Island ferry and outdoor subway lines to shut down. The New Jersey Turnpike banned car-pulled trailers and motorcycles.

WATCH | Tropical storm Isaias topples trees in New York:

Footage shows some of the damage caused by the storm as it passed through Queens, N.Y. Credit: Thinhinane Lahlou/Instagram 0:31

Some of the worst damage Tuesday seemed to be east and north of where the hurricane's eye struck land in North Carolina.

"Fortunately, this storm was fast-moving and has already left our state," Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday afternoon.

'When the water started coming, it did not stop'

In North Myrtle Beach, S.C., the storm sent waves crashing over the Sea Cabin Pier late Monday, causing a big section to collapse into the water as startled bystanders taking photos from the pier scrambled back to land.

"I'm shocked it's still standing," said Dean Burris, who watched from the balcony of a vacation rental.

The private Sea Cabin pier is seen damaged following Hurricane Isaias, in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., early Tuesday. (Jason Lee/The Sun News/The Associated Press)

The Hurricane Center had warned oceanside dwellers near the North Carolina-South Carolina state line to brace for storm surge up to 1.5 metres and up to 200 millimetres of rain.

Eileen and David Hubler were out early Tuesday cleaning up in North Myrtle Beach, where 1.2 metres of storm surge flooded cars, unhinged docks and etched a water line into the side of their home.

"When the water started coming, it did not stop," Eileen Hubler said. They had moved most items of value to their second floor, but a mattress and washing machine were unexpected storm casualties.

"We keep thinking we've learned our lesson," she said. "And each time there's a hurricane, we learn a new lesson."

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