Steve August 4, 2020

Tropical Storm Isaias continued to wreak havoc up the East Coast on Tuesday morning as it ripped through Virginia with heavy winds and torrential rains and set its destructive path toward the Northeast.

Isaias was moving quickly across eastern Maryland late Tuesday morning after knocking out power to nearly 350,000 customers in Virginia, according to utilities. About 33 million people from Virginia to New York were under tornado watches.

The storm had already brought twisters to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland on Monday, and on Tuesday did the same in Delaware and New Jersey and again in Maryland.

By midday Tuesday, more than 325,000 people were already without power in New Jersey. “This storm is escalating quickly and the numbers are rapidly changing. We are in touch with all major utilities, which are working to restore power ASAP,” Gov. Phil Murphy wrote on Twitter.

A tornado in Lancaster County in Virginia left two people injured, while another damaged house roofs in Suffolk, according to the National Weather Service.

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In Norfolk, the First Baptist Church was heavily damaged, according to NBC affiliate WAVE, but no injuries were reported. A pastor at the church had posted prayers on the congregation’s blog in anticipation of the storm.

In North Carolina, where Isaias made landfall as an 85 mph Category 1 hurricane late Monday night near Ocean Isle Beach, more than 300,000 people were still without power Tuesday morning, according to utility companies.

Wilmington recorded a storm surge of around 5.5 feet, higher than Hurricanes Hazel, Matthew and Florence.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said late Monday the city had seen high winds and a number of power outages, but the extent of the damage won’t be known until the storm passes and crews can complete assessments. He said flooding reached 3 feet in some places, and four homes in one area of Ocean Isle Beach caught fire.

A tornado struck a mobile home park in Bertie County, killing at least one person and wiping out all but two trailers. Three or four people who were in the park are still missing, according to Bertie County Sheriff John Holley.

On Tuesday, coastal areas from Virginia to New England were at risk of flash flooding, strong winds and widespread power outages, according to the weather service.

New York could expect the highest winds since Hurricane Sandy flattened coastal areas there in 2012, NBC New York reported.

While Isaias had been downgraded to a tropical storm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned New Yorkers to prepare for “hurricane-like conditions” throughout Tuesday.

“I have directed our state agencies to deploy emergency assets to problematic areas to assist our local partners, and I am asking New Yorkers to be diligent and stay ready in case the storm intensifies on Tuesday,” Cuomo said.

Beaches in New York City were closed Tuesday. Storm surges of up to 2 feet were forecast, and Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that a tornado could whip through the city, although such an occurrence is rare.

Next door, in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency starting at 5 a.m. Tuesday and told residents to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

Elisha Fieldstadt

Elisha Fieldstadt is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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