Fierce thunderstorms swamped parts of seven states early Saturday, bringing severe, sudden flooding requiring helicopter rescues. A train derailed and spilled fuel in the extreme weather that killed at least five people.
In Vermont's Mad River Valley, the mountain river - usually docile in summertime - lived up to its name, jumping its banks to wash out roads, destroy homes and send terrified residents scrambling into trees to escape rising water.A 9-year-old girl was killed and her 8-year-old friend injured by a lightning strike in Baltimore. Another man was killed in Ohio, electrocuted by fallen power lines, while two other victims were swept away by raging rivers.
High winds reaching 60 mph downed trees and knocked out electricity to tens of thousands of homes. Campers in Vermont gathered for the annual Ben & Jerry's One World One Heart Festival at Sugarbush had to flee to higher ground, and Saturday's show was canceled.
Thunderstorms Friday dumped nearly 4 inches of rain in northern New York that weakened the ground around a rail trestle near Port Kent, causing a freight train to jump the tracks and sixteen cars to spill their cargo.
About 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked into a stream just 200 yards from Lake Champlain, but cleanup crews were able to contain most of it before it could reach the lake. No serious environmental damage resulted, said Gary Shef-fer of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Another car carrying 58,000 gallons of whiskey fell into the stream, but the liquor seeped out slowly and appeared to pose little environmental threat, Sheffer said.
Helicopters came in to pluck people from treetops and rescue others stranded on the roofs of their homes in New York and Vermont. Boats looking for flood victims brought others to safety.
Three people rescued by boat in Warren, Vt., included two who spent part of the night clinging to tree branches after fleeing their mobile home before it burst loose from its foundation.
"They were sitting there (in the tree) from about 1 until well after daybreak," Jeff Allen said of neighbors he rescued using a tree log as a makeshift raft. Allen was awakened by the sound of the mobile home breaking apart. "It just buckled around a tree and it was gone."
Lightning killed a 26-year-old camper near Lake George about 55 miles north of Albany. Three other campers were injured by the same lightning bolt. In Baltimore, a 9-year-old girl was killed by lightning as she and several friends ran past a large tree while trying to take cover from a storm.