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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deadly Floods Hit East U.S.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton declared Pennsylvania a disaster area Sunday because of floods that killed at least 17 people and drove thousands from their homes.

John Comey, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said the state is estimating more than $70 million of damage to roads, bridges and homes, and said there were 17 flood-related deaths in the state's worst flooding in history.

The floods caused by melting snows and heavy rains in the past two weeks affected towns in eight states, officials said.

Officials in West Virginia said at least two people have died because of the floods. Officials said 1,650 National Guard troops stood ready to help evacuate residents in two threatened towns, Wheeling on the Ohio river and Marlinton on the Greenbrier River.

Pennsylvania had already deployed 1,400 National Guard troops to help clean up and prevent looting in 58 affected counties, Comey said.

Transportation Secretary Federico Pena said flooding also closed major parkways on the Potomac River in Washington and at one time threatened to close National Airport.

"It was beginning to overflow the [airport's] banks," Pena told Reuters. "We were worried it might cover the runway and that we would have to close the airport. Fortunately that did not happen."

Pena said the flooding closed the main highway to the airport but a secondary road remained open.

Weary home and business owners in historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, sandbagged properties in a bid to hold back the flooding Potomac. But basements flooded as the river, engorged with recent record snow falls, rose up to 2.5 meters beyond normal flood levels.

"We're putting down bags to help retard some of the water, but if it gets any higher I'll be in trouble," said a gloomy property owner in Alexandria.

Streets in Washington's historic Georgetown district, adjoining the Potomac, were under water and city officials issued flood warnings.