Heavy rains worsened flooding in the waterlogged Carolinas today, claiming its first reported victims. The North Carolina Highway Patrol said five people were killed when their vehicle skidded off a rain-slicked road and tumbled into a flooded ditch.
According to State Highway Patrol Sgt. J.E. Brewer, the five were traveling on U.S. 64 around noon today when their vehicle hit a patch of standing water and hydroplaned.
The victims were identified as Daniel Alvarez, 25, the driver; his wife, Natalie Owens, 26; 2-year-old twins Vacharia and Ezeikeo Alvarez; and 1-year-old Ariela Alvarez. They had been traveling from the Atlanta area.
Tropical Storm Nicole continues to push northward along the East Coast.
Flash flood watches and flood warnings were in place this afternoon for much of the Eastern Seaboard, and in the New York City metro area and New England, residents braced for high winds.
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In Wilmington, N.C., streets were flooded on Thursday morning as the city broke a rainfall record. Nearly 21 inches of rain have fallen in the last three days, the heaviest rainfall in a three-day period since recordkeeping started in 1859.
From Sunday to Tuesday, neighborhoods in Wilmington had already been hit by flooding.
"It's unbelievable. I've never seen anything like this," said Anne Levers, who was visiting Wilmington from Ohio.
In Greenville, N.C., tow truck drivers did brisk business overnight, pulling cars from high waters. Though many roads were closed in the area, some drivers took their chances -- only to stall out in the flooding.
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency as the storm continued to bear down on the state, buckling decks and sidewalks and forcing cars off the road. Parts of the state are also under a tornado watch.
For the eastern coastal region of the U.S., forecasters predicted periods of heavy rainfall, with 4 to 8 inches of rain through early Friday.
Nicole soaked Cuba on Wednesday, and it caused mudslides and left at least two people dead in Jamaica.
While Tropical Storm Nicole is no longer considered tropical, the moisture from it is feeding a new low pressure system moving up the east coast. Fourteen states, from the Carolinas to Maine, face flooding.
A tornado watch was in effect this afternoon for Delaware and parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Washington, D.C. and surrounding counties have been issued flash flood warnings.
The strong winds also produced waves as high as 20 feet along the shore from South Carolina as far north as Long Island, N.Y. New York City expected up to six inches of rain.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.