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Tropical Storm Elsa soaks NYC as it races up East Coast

The tropical storm is expected to continue moving northeast and be over Atlantic Canada by Friday night or Saturday.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The fast-moving storm Elsa lashed New York City and New England with heavy rain and high winds Friday, flooding streets, toppling trees and hindering some rail service.

Maximum sustained winds from the storm were near 50 mph (85 kph) with higher gusts as it moved over Massachusetts. But the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its 2 p.m. update that Elsa was no longer considered a tropical storm.

Elsa remained powerful enough to bring about 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) of rain to areas of Massachusetts and Rhode Island by the early afternoon, flooding streets and stranding cars. West of Boston, Framingham police said Route 9 at Route 126 was closed because of high water.

Storm conditions caused morning snags on commuter rail lines across the New York City region, with slight delays on the Harlem Line north of the city and service suspended on the Long Island Rail Road’s Oyster Bay Branch because of fallen trees.

The downpour caused a small rock slide under the main railroad track in West Haven, Connecticut, forcing trains to switch to a secondary track for a couple of hours. West Haven was also among the coastal cities dealing with significant street flooding.

“We’re waiting on the water to recede," said Joe Soto, the city's emergency management director. "The drainage system was just overwhelmed.”

The storm came a day after a deluge flooded some streets and subway stations in New York City.

Despite videos showing flooding in some stations Thursday, “we actually weathered the storm quite well,” interim New York City Transit president Sarah Feinberg said in an email.

Up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain was possible in some areas Friday, enough to cause flash flooding.

The strongest winds were expected to stay off the coast of New England. But the storm was expected to bring heavy rain – up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) on the Maine coast – before blowing into the Bay of Fundy and Canada late Friday.

Scattered power outages were being reported along Elsa’s path Friday.

The system was already blamed for one death in Florida on Wednesday. And Elsa also previously caused a damaging tornado in Georgia.

On Wednesday, nine people were injured in coastal Camden County, Georgia, when a tornado struck a campground for active-duty service members and military retirees. Eight of those hurt had to be taken to hospitals, Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base spokesperson Chris Tucker said.

The EF-2 tornado flipped over multiple RVs, throwing one of the overturned vehicles about 200 feet (61 meters) into a lake, the National Weather Service said in a preliminary report early Thursday after its employees surveyed the damage.

Credit: AP
Fallen trees block Front Street on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 in Valrico. Tropical Storm Elsa continued to track north after dropping heavy rain in the Tampa Bay area. (Luis Santana/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Authorities in Jacksonville, Florida, said one person was killed Wednesday when a tree fell and struck two cars. The Naval Air Force Atlantic Office on Friday identified the person who was killed as Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Deshawn Levon Johnson, 26, of Virginia.

In South Carolina, a Coast Guard Air Station Savannah crew rescued a family that became stranded Wednesday on Otter Island after their boat drifted off the beach. The group was flown to a hospital in good health, a Coast Guard news release said.

The National Weather Service in Morehead City, North Carolina, tweeted that a tornado was spotted near Fairfield on Thursday afternoon.

Overnight in coastal New Jersey, a 78-mph (126-kph) wind gust was recorded in Ludlam Bay, and a 71-mph (114-kph) gust was recorded in Beach Haven — both appeared to be “associated with nearby tornadoes,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

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