A good soaking

Michael Graham of Savannah, Ga., looks out over the erosion from the pre-dawn high tide Thursday in South Nags Head, N.C. A storm with torrential rains and high winds pummeled much of the Atlantic coast Thursday, closing schools and highways, and flooding

NORFOLK, Va. -- A drenching, wind-driven rain lashed much of the Atlantic seaboard Thursday, flooding streets, closing schools, roads and bridges and causing at least five deaths.

The torrential rains and winds gusting more than 30 mph were the work of late-season Tropical Storm Ida, which quickly weakened once it made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast on Tuesday but still soaked a swath of the Southeast.

Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine declared a state of emergency and officials urged people in some areas to stay home. Rain and resulting floods were predicted to continue at least through today, especially along the state's southeastern coast and particularly in Norfolk, a coastal city of a quarter-million people.

Officials in this city on the Chesapeake Bay were watching the incoming tide closely, as winds pushed water inland and threatened to cause more flooding late Thursday or early today. Heeding Kaine's advice, many residents weathered the storm at home. Many roads were inches or feet under water. "It's miserable but no life or limb in danger," said Bob Batcher, a spokesman for Norfolk's emergency services.

Three motorists died in weather-related crashes in central and eastern Virginia, said Corrine Geller, state police spokeswoman. In New York City, a 36-year-old man surfing at a beach died after getting caught in pounding surf churned up by the storm. In North Carolina, an elderly man standing in his yard was killed when a pine tree was snapped off by strong winds and fell on him, the fire department said.

In South Carolina, state health officials blamed the heavy rains for overwhelming sewage plants in the Columbia area, dumping some raw sewage into three rivers.

In suburban Atlanta, streets and yards that border the Chattahoochee River filled with water as the river spilled over its banks from the rain.