Cleanup begins in Eastern states after strong storms kill 5; scattered thunderstorms forecast

John Kekis And Michael Hill / The Associated Press
July 9, 2014 02:44 PM

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, second from right, walks with state Sen. David Valesky, left, Smithfield Town Supervisor Rick Bargabos and Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley as they survey the damage from Tuesday night's storm, on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Smithfield, N.Y. The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado destroyed the homes in upstate New York where four people were killed. Barbara Watson, the meteorologist leading the agency's survey team says that the violent winds Tuesday were at least 100 mph and reached undetermined higher speeds to cause the damage they're seeing in Smithfield. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

SMITHFIELD, N.Y. - Stunned residents in several Eastern U.S. states picked through debris Wednesday and crews worked to restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes following severe storms that killed five people.

Tornadoes touched down in the town of Smithfield in rural New York state on Tuesday, as well as in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Strong thunderstorms also swept through Maryland and New Jersey, blowing down buildings, trees and utility lines.

Officials said a 35-year-old woman and her 4-month-old daughter were among those killed in Smithfield. In Manchester, Maryland, a tree fell at a summer camp, killing one child and injuring six others headed to a shelter.

Barbara Watson, the meteorologist leading the weather service survey team in New York, said the Smithfield tornado's winds were at least 100 mph (160 kph) and certainly reached undetermined higher speeds.

A man who lives across the street from the mother and child who were killed said his home was untouched, but he said he knew immediately afterward that things were bad at his neighbour's. Wood from the home's framing and walls was scattered around the lawn, and a hot tub sat amid the rubble.

"If they were in it, they had to be gone," Gary M. Sprague said. "You can only assume the worst at that point. This is horrible, just horrible."

Undersheriff John Ball said the dead mother was found next to an outdoor wood boiler and a neatly piled stack of wood, which were untouched. The baby was found about 100 feet (30 metres) away in a field. Neighbors were helping sift through the rubble.

"It took a toll on everybody that was here," Ball said. "This is a rural, close-knit community."

Scattered thunderstorms were forecast for upstate New York starting Wednesday afternoon, but no watches or warnings were issued.

Nearly 44,000 utility customers across New York were still without power at midday Wednesday.

Forecasters confirmed that at least two tornados hit different parts of Pennsylvania, where more than 350,000 customers lost power at the peak of the storms. The National Weather Service said three small tornadoes also touched down in northeastern Ohio, causing minor damage.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 81,500 homes and businesses were still without power in Pennsylvania, more than half of them in the Philadelphia suburbs. Utilities in the Baltimore-Washington area reported about 34,000 power outages as of early Wednesday afternoon and in New Jersey, nearly 5,500 homes and businesses were without power.


Associated Press writers George M. Walsh and Chris Carola contributed from Albany, New York.

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