By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Relentless rain triggered catastrophic flooding in the East on Thursday, killing at least two people in Pennsylvania and forcing city-wide evacuations.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee swamped homes and businesses from Maryland to New England, with as much as a foot of rain recorded outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which declared a state of emergency.
Some 100,000 people were evacuated from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania early on Thursday because of rising waters of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. It was expected to crest later in the day.
Rivers and creeks already swollen by Hurricane Irene threatened cities and towns throughout Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey and were poised to smash records.
"It's like Irene without the wind," meteorologist Elliot Abrams on Accuweather.com said of the waves of 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."
The storm was blamed for at least two deaths in Pennsylvania . One homeowner died last night while he was trying to bail out several feet of water from his basement, and a wall fell in, said Derry Township Police Chief Patrick O'Rourke.
"We took a direct hit," said O'Rourke, noting even police had to abandon their flooded station.
The second death was a 62-year-old woman whose car was swept up in rushing flood waters on Route 333 in Elizabeth township, said state police in Ephrata, Lancaster County.
Driving overnight rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning, soaked 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, according to Pennsylvania State Police.
Railways were also shut because of flooding, including four heavily traveled commuter lines run by the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority or SEPTA.
Among the New Jersey roads closed were busy Route 73, parts of Route 29 in Trenton along the banks of the Delaware River.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)