Northeast rainstorm, strong winds blamed for 6 deaths, power outages

By Bruce Shipkowski, AP
Sunday, March 14, 2010

Northeast wind-driven rain blamed for 6 deaths

EGG HARBOR CITY, N.J. — The weekend’s brutal Northeast rainstorm is being blamed for the deaths of at least six people.

Connecticut police say a woman died when a falling tree struck her as she was walking late Saturday in Greenwich (GREN’-ich).

Strong winds and heavy rains uprooted trees, downed power lines and flooded creeks. A half-million utility customers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut lost electricity.

Police say one person was killed in Westport, Conn., when a tree fell on a car.

Authorities in Teaneck, N.J., say two neighbors were killed by a falling tree as they headed home from a prayer service.

In Hartsdale, N.Y., a man died when a tree crushed the roof of his car.

And in Rhode Island, an off-duty state trooper died Sunday after his car hydroplaned in a patch of standing water.

Associated Press writer Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

EGG HARBOR CITY, N.J. (AP) — Last month, the Northeast was smothered by blizzards. Now, it’s waterlogged by torrential rains.

The region mopped up Sunday following a bout with high wind and heavy rains that uprooted trees, downed power lines and flooded some creeks and rivers. Five people died in storm-related accidents and hundreds of thousands were without electricity.

More than a half-million customers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut lost electricity at the peak of Saturday’s storm, which carried wind gusts of up to 70 mph. It came about two weeks after heavy snow and hurricane-force winds left more than a million customers in the Northeast in the dark.

“I spent most of the past few months clearing snow and ice out my driveway, sidewalks, front walks, and now we’re picking up all these branches,” Jack Alexander said as he and his family worked to clear debris from the front yard of their Egg Harbor City home. “It seems like we’ve had every type of weather event you could have this winter — I’m almost afraid to see what else can happen.”

Farther north in Jackson Township, drivers were negotiating stretches of flooded roadways and detours caused by fallen trees and accidents.

“Fortunately it’s a Sunday, so there’s not as much traffic to deal with” said Vanna Hayes, a 32-year-old New York City resident who was in the area to visit relatives. “We wanted to go to Atlantic City last night, but we put it off because it looked like a monsoon was happening down there.”

In Manhattan, Broadway’s sidewalks and trash cans were littered with hundreds of shattered umbrellas.

“Last night was wicked,” said Ron Recoskie, heading out for brunch and shopping on the Upper West Side. “I’ve never seen so many umbrellas on the street.”

At the storm’s peak, more than 265,000 customers in the New York City area and 235,000 customers in New Jersey were without power. The Philadelphia area reported 70,000 customers without electricity, while more than 80,000 customers in Connecticut sat in the dark.

PECO, an electric company serving the Philadelphia area, had assistance from crews from western Pennsylvania and Michigan, but some customers may have to wait until Monday for power to be restored, spokesman Fred Maher said.

Falling trees proved to be a deadly hazard.

One person was killed and three others were injured in Westport, Conn., after a tree fell on a car Saturday night during the storm, police said.

Authorities in the suburb of Teaneck, N.J., said two neighbors were killed by a falling tree as they headed home from a prayer service at a synagogue. The men — 49-year-old Ovadia Mussaffi, president of the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, and 54-year-old Lawrence Krause — were struck by a large oak tree around 7 p.m., Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said Sunday.

In Hartsdale, N.Y., another suburb, a man was killed when a large tree crushed the roof of his car and entangled it in live wires. Brendan McGrath, 58, of Auburn, N.Y., was found dead in his 2009 Hyundai sedan. His wife, Mary, also 58, escaped from the passenger side.

In Rhode Island, an off-duty state trooper died in a crash early Sunday after his car hydroplaned in a large patch of standing water left from the weekend’s storms, state police said. James Dougherty Jr., a 41-year-old detective sergeant, was killed in West Greenwich.

The storm also left damaged buildings in its wake.

In Uniondale, N.Y., the aging Nassau Coliseum lost three pieces of its aluminum facade about 90 minutes before the start of the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders National Hockey League game.

In Atlantic City, the horizontal arm of a boom crane plunged 47 floors at the Revel Casino construction site. Debris went flying and crashed through the driver’s side window of a police cruiser; the officer suffered minor injuries.

Strong winds fueled a fire that started in a home in Ocean Grove, N.J., and quickly spread. At least four homes were destroyed, and a historic inn was damaged.

Flood warnings were issued for rivers in northern Jersey, including the Ramapo River at Mahwah and Saddle River at Lodi, where minor to moderate flooding was expected Sunday. A coastal flood advisory was in effect for the Jersey Shore.

In suburban New York City, the storm caused major erosion at Jones Beach, where the entire sand area was underwater Sunday, and all trails at Long Island’s state parks had to be closed because at least 100 trees had fallen. It will take weeks to restore the sand and clean the parks, state parks spokesman George Gorman said.

In northern New England, a wind advisory and flood watch were in effect for extreme southern Maine and parts of New Hampshire.

Associated Press writer Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.

will not be displayed