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Alberto’s last gasp: Mudslides and flooding in the Appalachians

As remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto distributed in the region of the Great Lakes, the people were keeping a weary look on dams and hills Thursday as regent of the storms have led to floods and mudslides in the Appalachian mountains of the Southeast.

In the North Carolina mountains, one of those landslides was to blame for a gas leak that was a house, killing two people. Boone police Sgt. Shane Robbins said the landslide resulted in the “catastrophic destruction” of the house Wednesday afternoon because of a gas leak.

Elsewhere, four dams are closely monitored by a state team of special engineers took, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday.

But Cooper went ahead and declared a state of emergency for hard-hit mountain provinces, say the forecast for the rest of the week calls for isolated heavy rain storms that can lead directly to flooding in areas that had 20 inch (50 cm) of rain in the past 15 days.

“This storm is not yet over. I am urging people to keep an eye on the forecasts,” Cooper said.

Alberto, while still spinning like a classic tropical storm, has managed to make its way since a Memorial Day landfall in the Florida Panhandle to just outside of Chicago. Forecasters said it would still bring rain and gusty winds to the Great Lakes this week.

Alberto’s heavy rains are widespread. Scattered flooding was reported in several states from Alabama through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, south Carolina and Virginia, and West Virginia.

In Hopkinsville, Kentucky, strong winds and heavy rainfall gave Sherry Key a restless night’s sleep.

“I have dogs and they are terribly afraid of storms, so they were on top on top of me the whole night,” said Key, a airport office manager.

The worst of the flooding was in the Appalachian Mountains. To 7 inches (18 cm) of rain caused flooding in Helen, a mountain town in Georgia, the National Weather Service said.

Atlanta station WAGA-TV reported that a number of roads in the vicinity of the center of the German-style tourist destination were shut down because of the rising water. No injuries were reported.

Two deaths had been reported during the storm’s passage. A television news anchor and a photojournalist were killed Monday in North Carolina, while the coverage of the weather, when a tree became uprooted from rain-soaked soil, and fell on their SUV, authorities said. WYFF-TV of Greenville, South Carolina, said news anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer died.

In the mountains of North Carolina, two Department of Transportation workers survived a close call when their dump truck was swept away by a mudslide in McDowell County while trying to clean debris from an earlier slide. The men were able to climb out of the overturned truck and stand at his side in the Catawba River until they were rescued, Gov. Cooper said.

Authorities in Cuba say Alberto left four people dead as the storm drenched the island in the pouring rain. Minister of the interior Julio Cesar Gandarilla said late Tuesday that she died as a result of “recklessness” during the storm. He gave no details. The death occurred as authorities worked to contain an oil spill in central Cuba on Cienfuegos Bay, that followed the floods of the nearby oil refinery.

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Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writer Jack Jones in Columbia contributed to this report.

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