Storm's lingering effects: disrupted commutes and power outages until the weekend

Associated Press

Many of the more than 300,000 customers without power after ferocious thunderstorms toppled trees and snapped power lines in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware could be in the dark until the weekend, the utilities said Wednesday.

Tuesday night's storms also crippled commuter rail service and cut phone service to many area residents and businesses.

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One hard-hit county outside Philadelphia issued an emergency declaration. Another, opting against government by candlelight, canceled court hearings and closed offices. On one Philadelphia block, five uprooted trees crushed cars and homes, and residents said it looked like a war zone.

Philadelphia-based PECO Energy reported about 126,000 outages Wednesday afternoon. The company was importing 500 workers from Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and New York utilities and added 200 local contractors to expedite repairs.

Atlantic City Electric and PSE&G reported more than 170,000 outages in southern New Jersey. Delmarva Power said about 23,000 customers remained out in Delaware.

Adrienne Johnson, who lives on the Philadelphia block made impassible by falling trees, said people were running to their basements as the sky turned gray and a torrent of rain fell Tuesday evening.

"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."

An electrical transformer explosion plunged the neighborhood into further darkness.

The National Weather Service said a 71 mph wind gust was recorded at Philadelphia International Airport. Amateur video captured lightning striking the William Penn statue atop City Hall.

The severe weather led to at least one death. A 15-year-old, Alexis Turner, of New Brighton, was killed and four other people were injured by trees knocked over in the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania during a church camping trip.

Four people sustained minor injuries in a building collapse in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.

For commuters, the storm's lingering effect was frustration. Power problems severely limited commuter rail service during the morning rush and threatened to delay the ride home during the evening.

Service remained suspended on SEPTA's Media/Elwyn line as crews removed 10 trees that fell onto signal cables. Service on the Norristown High Speed Line remained suspended between Radnor and Norristown due to downed trees. SEPTA said its other regional rail lines continued to operate 15 to 20 minutes behind schedule due to signal problems.

The PATCO Speedline between suburban New Jersey and downtown Philadelphia was running trains every 20 minutes, instead of every 3 to 5 minutes, after a storm-related power outage halted service for the morning rush hour.

Delaware County Councilman Mario Civera Jr. said fallen trees and power lines were preventing emergency vehicles from getting through. Civera said the county issued its emergency declaration to put a disaster plan into effect and would seek state aid to deal with damage.

Verizon said wireless voice and data service remained out in portions of Delaware and southern New Jersey after a backup fiber line was severed.

Emergency officials said the Verizon outage was preventing cellphone calls to 911. Police advised customers to call 911 using landlines or use text-to-911 services.

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Associated Press writers Ron Todt, Shawn Marsh and Joe Mandak contributed to this report.