Pennsylvania Devastated by Deadly Flooding After Tropical Storm Lee
WEST PITTSTON, Pa. -- Authorities in eastern Pennsylvania surveyed the damage Friday caused by near-historic flooding as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee soaked the region for another day.

"Potentially thousands of homes" have been affected, Luzerne County Commissioner Maryanne Petrilla told CNN.

The tropical moisture brought floodwaters that left at least three people dead, caused widespread damage and prompted police and the National Guard to patrol neighborhoods in an effort to ward off looters.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed emergency declarations for Pennsylvania and neighboring New York, making federal resources available to respond to the flooding and its aftermath.

The flood-engorged Susquehanna River crested early Friday in some Pennsylvanian and New York cities, while other communities braced for still-higher water levels.

In Luzerne County, in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania, between 65,000 and 70,000 people were ordered to leave their homes as the Susquehanna rose above flood stage, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Stephen Bekanich.

The Susquehanna appeared to crest at 38.83 feet at Wilkes-Barre at 1:45 a.m. Flood stage there is 22 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

The valley has a levee system that tops out at 41 feet, according to Drew McLaughlin, a spokesman for the Wilkes-Barre mayor's office.

McLaughlin and other officials were examining the levees.

"We're closely monitoring, and it seems they are holding steady," he said.

A river gate near the Market Street Bridge was leaking late Thursday, but sandbags and other repairs were keeping it in check, with some minor street flooding in the area, according to McLaughlin.

"It's pretty much a ghost town," McLaughlin said from south downtown, adding that residents appeared to heed the call to leave.

Other Luzerne County communities not protected by the system were not so fortunate.

Heavy flooding was reported in West Pittston, Harding and Plymouth Township.

"At this point, we haven't been able to assess that (flooding and damage) because the water is so high," Bekanich said.

Plymouth Township resident Francis Federici was forced to leave his home, which sat in 5-foot floodwater.

"On a normal day, we love it here," he said. "There's nobody around us. We have a beautiful yard. We were fixing our home up."

"The rise of the river is so tremendous, we put out a request to volunteers to assist in sandbagging operations," Bekanich said.

Shelter space for 4,100 was rapidly being filled, and the county was looking for more space, Commissioner Petrilla told CNN.