TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Powerful storms that thundered through eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut downed trees and power lines, leaving nearly 400,000 customers without electricity and disrupting mass transit service Wednesday.
In Pennsylvania, PECO said about 137,000 homes and businesses were without power. Chester and Delaware counties were hardest hit, and officials said full service might not be restored until the weekend.
Forecasters are trying to determine whether straight line winds or a tornado caused most of the damage. The National Weather Service said a 71 mph wind gust was recorded at Philadelphia International Airport.
The storm is responsible for at least two deaths.
A 15-year-old girl on a church camping trip was killed by trees knocked over in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest.
In Maryland, Montgomery County Police said a 79-year-old man died Tuesday night after his pickup truck hit a downed tree in Beallsville after storms swept through.
In one Philadelphia neighborhood, ferocious winds toppled five trees and caused a transformer to explode.
Fallen trees crushed cars at both ends of the 5300 block of Sylvester Street in the city’s Frankford section, blocking vehicle access. Three trees landed on homes.
Adrienne Johnson said the damage to her block resembled the aftermath of a tornado. She said the uprooted trees were old and needed to be removed long ago.
Johnson was home when the storm hit around 6 p.m. Tuesday. She said some people ran to their basements.
“You could hear the thunder and once the thunder hit, you heard the trees snap, cracking,” Johnson said. “It looks like a war-torn area. Trees are everywhere.”
The PATCO Speedline between southern New Jersey and Philadelphia was not operating during Wednesday’s rush because of power problems. Trains were expected to start running in limited service shortly before 1 p.m. New Jersey Transit has suspended service on its Atlantic City rail line.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority suspended service along some regional rail lines.
Four people sustained minor injuries when a building collapsed in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.
In New Jersey, nearly 210,000 homes and businesses were without electricity Wednesday morning after the storms, some packing 75 mph winds, thundered through the region.
Gloucester, Camden and Salem counties were among the hardest hit areas. Complete utility restoration could take several days.
The NWS is investigating whether a tornado formed in parts of Gloucester County. Officials did confirm a small tornado briefly touched down in Wrentham, Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border.
Strong winds ripped off part of the Deptford Mall’s exterior. More than 30 animals were left stranded when a pet shop roof fell in in Gibbstown.
Parents and students scrambled when the storms formed as the Egg Harbor Township High School graduation ended.
There are no reports of injuries.
Connecticut’s two largest utilities reported more than 19,000 customers lost power, with outages in Durham, East Haddam, Monroe, Redding and Ridgefield.
In New Hampshire, the fast-moving storm knocked out power in in Colebrook, Columbia, Pittsburg and Stewartstown, but most service was restored before morning.
Emergency officials say a storm-related service outage in parts of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware is preventing Verizon cellphone calls to 911 and other landlines. Officials say the outage is also affecting cellphone calls to non-Verizon cellphone numbers. Customers say they’re hearing busy signals.
The strong storm system was the same that had spawned tornadoes in the Midwest, including at least nine in northern Illinois.
As the storms moved through southeastern Pennsylvania on Tuesday evening, the sky blackened and commuter train service was halted beginning at rush hour. Amtrak suspended its Northeast Corridor and Keystone services from Washington through Philadelphia and on to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but restored service about two hours later.
Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Bob Lentz contributed to this report.
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