Strong winds and high seas buffeted a broad section of the East Coast Thursday, flooding streets, stranding travelers, forcing people to evacuate their homes and leaving tens of thousands without power. As the storm stomped its way north, it also dumped up to a foot of snow in the Appalachians.

"Anything can become a missile in this wind," said Joan Sooy, director of highway safety for New Jersey's Atlantic County, warning people to tie down objects that could blow away.The death toll grew by at least four Thursday, bringing the week's total to 19.

In the West, a storm that had triggered pounding rains and mudslides in California relented Wednesday, but there were forecasts of more heavy rain by Thursday night across the northern half of the state.

A trio of storm systems could hit California by Saturday night, with one packing the potential for up to 9 inches of rain and 40 mph winds. Gov. Pete Wilson has already declared emergencies in 10 counties. Thursday, the first of the three storms came ashore.

The Eastern storm brought tornadoes to southern Florida on Monday before churning to the north, hammering the coast from Georgia to New Jersey with heavy rain and winds as high as 75 mph.

Farther inland, light to moderate snow fell in the lower Ohio Valley, while the Appalachian Moun-tains to the western areas of Kentucky have seen anywhere from 4 to 15 inches of accumulation in a day and a half. Many roads were snowpacked.

More nasty weather was forecast across the Northeast.

Hundreds of motorists were stranded - some up to 18 hours - in a 12-mile traffic jam in the westbound lanes of I-40 in Tennessee. About 600 people went to shelters.

A 20-car train carrying mixed freight southbound to Roanoke, Va., derailed early Thursday after floodwaters from the Maury River swept away an 80-foot section of track. The two-man crew managed to swim out of the river and neither was hurt. Crews were working Thursday to remove the derailed cars and clean up diesel fuel spilled in the crash.

At least 20 house fires broke out in southeastern Virginia after floodwaters spread into homes and soaked oil heaters, sparking the blazes. No one was hurt.

The brunt of the nor'easter pounding the coast was expected to hit Maryland and Delaware Thursday afternoon and many districts closed schools because of flooding.