* Region earlier socked by flooding from Hurricane Irene
* Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dump torrents of rain
* Railways, commuter highways closed in Philadelphia area
By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA, Sept 8 Relentless rain spawned by
the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee caused major flooding in the
U.S. East on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of 65,000 people
from the northeastern Pennsylvania city of Wilkes-Barre and
swamping homes and businesses from Maryland to New England.
Evacuations also were ordered in New York state due to
flooding caused by the powerful rainmaker, which earlier
drenched the Gulf Coast region and tested the flood defenses of
Railways and busy commuter highways were closed in the
Philadelphia area and at least three deaths related to the
flooding were reported in Pennsylvania, whose capital
Harrisburg declared a state of emergency.
As much as 12 inches (30 cm) of rain was recorded outside
of Harrisburg in central Pennsylvania.
Rivers and creeks already swollen by Hurricane Irene, which
caused flooding in late August in parts of the same region,
threatened cities and towns throughout Pennsylvania, New York
and New Jersey.
Some 65,000 people were evacuated from Wilkes-Barre early
on Thursday because of the rising waters of the Susquehanna
River and another 35,000 people in surrounding counties were
threatened, Luzerne County Commissioner Stephen Urban said.
The river was expected to crest at 40.7 feet (12.4 meters)
later in the day and levies in Wilkes-Barre are built to
withstand waters up to 41 feet (12.5 meters), Urban said.
"Our number one priority is protecting lives and getting
people out of harm's way," Urban said.
In New York state, mandatory evacuations were declared for
some 10,000 residents in Binghamton and Broome counties, near
the Pennsylvania border, as well as towns in Schenectady County
and Schoharie County.
Torrential overnight rain, accompanied by thunder and
lightning, soaked an already-soggy Philadelphia. Flooding,
mudslides and rock slides closed some of the area's busiest
commuter highways, including the Schuylkill Expressway and U.S.
Route 1, authorities said.
Railways were also shut because of flooding, including four
heavily traveled commuter lines run by the Southeast
Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA).
In New York state, Amtrak shut rail service west of Albany
and officials anticipated numerous highway closures.
In New Jersey, roads closed included busy Route 73 and
parts of Route 29 in Trenton along the Delaware River banks.
"It's like Irene without the wind," meteorologist Elliot
Abrams of Accuweather.com said of the rain predicted to
continue through Thursday.
Fellow forecaster Evan Myers said, "The combination of
previous record rainfall, current tropical downpours from Lee,
urban development and an already fragile watershed will lead to
historic flooding in part of the Northeast this week."
(Additional reporting by Daniel Lovering in Pittsburgh and
Holly McKenna in Albany; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Will