By RANDALL CHASE
Associated Press Writer
LITTLE CREEK, Del. (AP) -- A wet, gusty storm that lashed the mid-Atlantic states Monday forced evacuations, flooded roads, fanned the flames of a deadly New Jersey fire and wrecked a research vessel off the Delaware coast, killing a crew member.
Tens of thousands of electricity customers in several states lost power as up to 5 inches of rain fell Sunday and Monday and wind gusts in some places reached hurricane strength.
A Coast Guard helicopter rescued the two crew members of the Russell W. Peterson research ship about 14 miles off Rehoboth Beach, but one crewman had no heartbeat and wasn't breathing, Petty Officer Nick Cangemi said.
The crewman was declared dead at a Salisbury, Md., hospital; the condition of the second crew member was not immediately available.
The ship, named after a former Delaware governor, was rechristened in Wilmington just six weeks ago. Formerly used to service oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, the liftboat was being used for the study migratory bird routes by a company trying to win state approval for an offshore wind farm. It is owned by Aqua Survey Inc. of Flemington, N.J.
"Our hearts and prayers are with the family and friends of the lost mariner," company president Ken Hayes said in a prepared statement. He said the company was not releasing the names of the men.
Hayes said Aqua Survey will work with the Coast Guard and other agencies to salvage the vessel.
Monday morning's high tide sent waves crashing through low-lying areas, forcing the evacuation of more than 200 residents from coastal communities in central Delaware.
At Pickering Beach east of Dover Air Force Base, National Guard trucks ferried about 50 residents to safety early Monday after the churning surf washed over the dune line and swirled around the pilings of the small cottages, burying some vehicles in sand and water.
Charlie Hinkle awoke about 6:30 a.m., looked out his window and saw that his home was a virtual island. "There was 4 feet of water underneath the house," he said.
As the water receded, it left behind buckled asphalt and a layer of silty mud that covered much of the village.
Tidal flooding also forced the closure of schools and roads in parts of coastal New Jersey. Wind gusts reached 50 mph in many parts of the state, and hurricane-strength gusts of 76 mph were recorded in Sea Isle City.
Strong wind contributed to a fatal fire Monday morning in Newark, fanning flames of a blaze that killed a 50-year-old man, damaged three buildings and left 35 people homeless.
The foul weather also prevented the Coast Guard from resuming a search for a female passenger who fell overboard from a cruise ship northeast of Atlantic City, N.J., on Sunday night. The Norwegian Dawn was headed for Bermuda from New York City when the passenger fell.
Wind and rain also caused average delays of up to 2 1/2 hours for flights heading into New York's three major airports.
Utilities reported more than 60,000 customers without power in New Jersey, 50,000 in Maryland, more than 23,000 in Delaware, 16,000 in Virginia and 4,500 in the District of Columbia. Power already had been restored to many of those customers by early afternoon.
Weather service meteorologist Lee Robertson said the storm differs from a nor'easter because it is a combination of two weather systems, one from the Ohio Valley that contributed to weekend tornadoes and a second from just south of the Delmarva region of Delaware.
Associated Press Writers Brian Westley in Washington, Todd Hallidy in Baltimore and Wayne Perry in Atlantic City, N.J., contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)