Storms move out to sea after pounding Northeast, South

PORTLAND, Maine The remnants of a violent storm that claimed 13 lives in Oklahoma and sent punishing winds and torrential downpours to northern New England and a tornado to South Carolina moved out to sea with a whimper Monday.

The National Weather Service said Sunday's storms sheared off trees and utility poles in parts of northern New England, dropped ping pong ball-sized hail in New York state and caused a tornado to touch down in South Carolina.

On Monday morning, the storm was blowing out to sea with only isolated thunderstorms and localized heavy rain in some areas as a cold front began moving in and clearing the region.

"There will be some thunderstorm activity, but the risk of severe weather has pretty much disappeared on the East Coast," said Bruce Terry, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's weather prediction center in College Park, Md.

At the peak of the storm, more than 40,000 homes and businesses were without power in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. That number had fallen to about 12,000 on Monday morning, with utilities hopeful to have most power restored by the end of the day.

In all, there were more than 100 reports of severe weather across the region on Sunday, mostly in a swath from central New York to Maine.

In northwestern South Carolina, a tornado knocked a home off its foundation and blew part of the roof off, said Taylor Jones, director of emergency management for Anderson County. Some trees were blown down and there was heavy rain but no widespread damage.

Although there were plenty of reports of severe weather, there weren't widespread reports of extreme weather, with winds in excess of 75 mph and hail measuring 2 inches in diameter, said John Koch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service East region headquarters in Bohemia, N.Y.

"Still, we're fortunate nobody was injured or hurt," he said.

On Sunday night, the stormy weather in the New York City region shortened the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game to 5 1/2 innings and produced backups at major airports. But by early Monday, delays were down to 15 minutes or less at airports on the East Coast.

Patrick Herb, 34, was traveling from Washington Dulles International Airport with his 1- and 3-year-olds to his home in Wisconsin, and had his departure time for a connecting flight in Detroit moved back three times. He described the mood at Dulles as "frustration and fatigue."

In other parts of the South, thunderstorms, high winds and hail rolled through as part of a slow-moving cold front.

In Texas, the Coast Guard said its crews saved or helped rescue 17 people caught in storms along the Gulf Coast. Lt. Matthew J. Walter of Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston cited "the devastating effects of strong winds and heavy rains" as the reason for three separate boats capsizing.

Meanwhile, residents in Oklahoma cleaned up after the storms there killed 13 people, including three veteran storm chasers. Tim Samaras; his son, Paul Samaras; and Carl Young were killed Friday. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the men were involved in tornado research.

KWTV meteorologist and storm chaser David Payne was out following the same tornado Friday from the opposite side.

"That tornado made a swing to north," Payne said. "When that happens sometimes, it can strengthen, it can become a bigger, more violent, much more violent tornado. You don't have time, if roads are jammed up.

Authorities said five children and two adults remained missing and aren't expected to be found alive.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin toured damage in El Reno, about 30 miles from Oklahoma City. She said the death toll could rise as emergency workers continue searching flooded areas for missing residents.

The state Medical Examiner's Office spokeswoman Amy Elliott said the death toll had risen to 13 from Friday's EF3 tornado, which charged down a clogged Interstate 40 in the western suburbs. Among the dead were two children — an infant sucked out of the car with its mother and a 4-year-old boy who along with his family had sought shelter in a drainage ditch.

In Missouri, areas west of St. Louis received significant damage from an EF3 tornado Friday that packed estimated winds of 150 mph. In St. Charles County, at least 71 homes were heavily damaged and 100 had slight to moderate damage, county spokeswoman Colene McEntee said.

Northeast of St. Louis, the town of Roxana, Ill., also saw damage from an EF3 tornado. Weather service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said it wasn't clear whether the damage in Missouri and Illinois came from the same twister or separate ones.

Five tornadoes struck the Oklahoma City metro area on Friday, the weather service said. Fallin said Sunday that 115 people were injured.

The storms formed out on the prairie west of Oklahoma City, giving residents plenty of advance notice. When told to seek shelter, many ventured out and snarled traffic across the metro area — perhaps remembering when a tornado hit Moore on May 20 and killed 24 people.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said roadways quickly became congested with the convergence of rush-hour traffic and fleeing residents.

"They had no place to go, and that's always a bad thing. They were essentially targets just waiting for a tornado to touch down," Randolph said. "I'm not sure why people do that sort of stuff, but it is very dangerous."

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