Heavy rain and winds rip region

A truck drives down a flooded Landis Avenue in Sea Isle City. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)

The March lion roared on today as the midpoint arrived in a windy, three-day soaking that delivered minor flooding and scattered power outages throughout the Philadelphia region.

Things were far uglier at the Jersey Shore, where the storm by midday had whipped into a classic nor'easter - on steroids.

Gusts topping 60 m.p.h. were reported in Atlantic City as driving rain lashed the coastline from Long Beach Island to Cape May. The churning sea sent waves crashing onto beaches, chewing up strands and dunes.

Hurricane-force winds caused a crane to collapse at the Revel Casino being built in Atlantic City, injuring a police officer.

Authorities responded to the site around 12:25 p.m. Officer Brian Hurley was hurt a few minutes later when debris crashed through a window of his cruiser. Details of his injuries were not immediately disclosed.

Gusts were also blamed for collapsing two unoccupied houses in Atlantic City around 12:30 p.m. No injuries were reported.

The 2.5 inches of heavy rain that had fallen overnight and into yesterday afternoon was also creating woes at the Shore.

The rain added more water to brackish wetlands and marshes in the back-bay areas of the barrier islands and along the mainland already swollen by previous storms and snow melt. That meant extensive street flooding - especially during the high tides - near bridges, along causeways and in low lying areas through the shore.

The Ninth Street Bridge and Causeway in Ocean City remained closed today, as was a portion of Route 9 near Absecon Creek in Absecon, just outside Atlantic City. The entire Shore is under a National Weather Service flood watch until 2 p.m. Sunday.

Atlantic City Electric had 43,000 South Jersey customers without power at the worst point, but by 7 p.m. about half were back online.

Much of the Philadelphia area remained under a flood warning as urban streets were submerged and streams began to swell beyond their banks. Among those expected to cause minor or moderate flooding were Neshaminy Creek in Langhorne and the North Branch of Rancocas Creek in Pemberton Township.

Larger waterways, notably the Delaware River, were not expected to crest beyond their banks.

On Brown Street in Yardley, where floods have damaged her home three times in recent years, Traci O'Donnell was baking brownies and eyeing her yard with cautious optimism.

"There's not even any water in our backyard," said O'Donnell, who lives six houses from the Delaware River and two houses from the Delaware Canal. Nonetheless, police were warning residents in Yardley and along Neshaminy Creek to at least move their vehicles to higher ground.

By 7 p.m. today, 2.6 inches had fallen since midnight at Philadelphia International Airport, the National Weather Service reported. That brought the two-day total to a sodden 3.1 inches.

Today was "a record for the date," said Bob Wanton, a meteorologist for the weather service in Mount Holly. "We're moving out of the heavier stuff now," but showers are expected to continue through Monday.

Utility crews scrambled to restore power to thousands of customers. Throughout the region, branches whipped by the wind and trees uprooted from the saturated soil fell across power lines.

Bucks and Montgomery Counties were hit especially hard. About 80,000 Peco Energy Co. customers in those counties were in the dark late Saturday.

"For some, we expect this to be a multiday outage," said Peco spokesman Ben Armstrong.

In New Jersey, Public Service Electric & Gas Co. reported about 136,000 of its 2.1 million customers were without power at 8 p.m. Although crews were to work through the night, the company warned that some repairs might take until Tuesday evening.

Service on SEPTA's R5 line was disrupted for about two hours when two trees fell across the tracks near Thorndale yesterday afternoon. All other trains were running at or close to schedule, spokeswoman Sylvana Hoyos said.

Philadelphia International Airport reported no departure delays.

But at Philadelphia Park in Bensalem, all but one race on Saturday's 10-race program was canceled because of high winds and poor conditions.

By late morning, NJ Transit had suspended River Line service along the Camden waterfront because of street flooding. Four stations between the Entertainment Center and the Walter Rand Transportation Center were switched to bus service, spokesman Dan Stessel said.

Later in the day, downed trees shut down the Atlantic City Rail Line, and customers were allowed to use their train tickets for buses.

Streets closed and reopened throughout the area as water levels rose and receded. Closings included Columbus Boulevard in Philadelphia and the Admiral Wilson Boulevard, Black Horse Pike, and White Horse Pike in South Jersey.

In Williamstown, a single-engine airplane was destroyed when a line tethering the right wing snapped, allowing winds to flip the $12,000 craft upside-down. The Williamstown Pavilion shopping center also had to be evacuated because part of the roof collapsed under pooling rain.


Contact staff writer Larry King

at 215-345-0446 or lking@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from the Associated Press

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