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Rain pounds NC as storm moves up the East Coast

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By Associated Press

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Driving rain from a storm system moving up the East Coast brought flooding to parts of North Carolina on Thursday, caused soggy morning commutes in the Northeast and prompted worries of additional flooding as far north as Maine.

Tornado watches were issued from North Carolina to New Jersey.

In North Carolina, the nearly 21 inches collected in Wilmington since rain started falling Sunday topped Hurricane Floyd's five-day mark of 19 inches set in 1999, the National Weather Service said.

In the eastern part of the state, officials evacuated about 70 people overnight from a mobile home community in Kinston because of high water, Roger Dail, director of emergency services in Lenoir County, said.

"The water's still up," Dail said. "I would suspect it's going to be later today, maybe tomorrow, before the water goes out of there."

In Carolina Beach, N.C., the rains caused a pond in the center of the town to overflow, filling nearby streets with water.

About a half-inch of water covered the floor in Jackie Woody's home.

"It's the worst it's been in years," he said.

Next door, Fran Casteen left her job as a manager at McDonald's to come home and put sandbags in front of her house.

"I have to defend what's mine," she said. "I've been flooded out twice and the water is getting pretty dag-gone close."

Farther north, parts of eastern Virginia were under flash flood warnings. The National Weather Service also issued a tornado watch for 33 eastern Virginia counties and 21 cities, including Richmond, Williamsburg, Arlington and the Hampton Roads area. Flash flood watches were also in effect for areas in Maryland, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

In Maryland, authorities said 26 people including high school students were hurt after a Metro bus rear-ended another bus from the Washington-area transit system in pouring rain. The Thursday morning accident came a day after a tour bus carrying DC sightseers plunged off a highway in another Maryland suburb, killing the driver and injuring more than a dozen people.

The 26 Metro bus injuries Thursday morning were not life threatening, Montgomery County fire department Assistant Chief Scott Graham said.

The weather also caused rail delays throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said there were scattered delays Thursday morning because of high water and tree limbs falling onto tracks.

In the Northeast, where abnormally dry weather had recently threatened brush fires and forced some states to issue drought warnings, the storms brought promise of relief even as authorities cautioned about possible flooding later Thursday in a swath from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Maine.

Nancy Furbush, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service on Long Island, N.Y., said the recent drier-than-normal conditions in the East would help keep larger rivers in New Jersey from flooding as quickly as they might otherwise, but that smaller rivers might flood more quickly. Whether they flood at all depends on how much rain falls and how quickly.

The storm system was good news to northern New England farmers who've endured a dry summer. At Abenaki Springs Farm in western New Hampshire, Erin Bickford was happy to see heavy rain falling on her eight acres of vegetables Thursday morning after months of dusty fields.

"We had almost no rain at all," Bickford said. "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."

Rain made for a messy morning commute but the heaviest of the storms had not reached Philadelphia and New York by the morning rush hour.

In southeastern North Carolina, about 9 inches of rain fell at the Sunny Point military terminal in Brunswick County between midnight and 6 a.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service in Wilmington reported.

Officials urged motorists not to drive through water that was washing over roads.

"Back during Floyd, we had a lot of people lose their lives that way," Red Cross regional director Lynwood Roberson said.

The downpour came as a low pressure system from the west mixed with the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole. Nicole dissipated over the Straits of Florida on Wednesday and its remaining rainbands were expected to remain mainly offshore while tracking northward.