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Severe Storms Blast Through Tri-State Area, Take Down Trees, Power Lines

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A speedy, but powerful round of thunderstorms pounded the Tri-State Area late Thursday afternoon, forcing people to scramble for cover as they were caught in the pouring rain.

Video posted to Instagram by Cameron Freed showed the time lapse of the storm as it moved across Manhattan and left the city completely obscured.

As CBS2's Lonnie Quinn reported, severe thunderstorm warnings were issued in the area earlier in the afternoon, and a severe thunderstorm watch was in effect until 7 p.m. for the five boroughs of New York City and Essex, Hudson and Union counties in New Jersey.


Storms blasted through Manhattan in the late afternoon, bringing torrential rain and blasts of lightning before moving on just as fast and leaving sunny skies by 5 p.m.

As the storm cell pushed to the east, it was bringing 4 inches of rain per hour, 300 lightning strikes per hour, winds of 60 mph or more, and hail of .5 inch diameter.

The storms also brought serious damage in some areas. In Bloomfield, New Jersey, Haade Ramadan posted a photo of a large tree that snapped and took down part of a chain link fence.

A tree also came down onto the southbound lanes of Interstate 287 in Morristown, New Jersey, leaving the expressway gridlocked with only the left southbound lane open, Joe Biermann reported from Chopper 2. On top of that, two semi-trailer trucks were involved in an accident a short distance away on the northbound side of I-287.

As CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reported, a tree also came down onto a house on Mohawk Lane in Livingston, New Jersey.

The large tree landed on the house just before 4 p.m. The house did not sustain significant structural damage, but there was damage to the gutter and the cover over the front porch. Power lines were also ripped down in the area.

At the time, winds were likely blowing 60 to 70 mph.

Homeowner Kara Baltuch was home when the tree fell.

"All of a sudden I looked out the window. The sky was very dark. The trees were blowing really, really hard, and the power went out, the TV went off, and I heard a big bang – it sounded like a truck crashed. And I went upstairs and look out the window and find the tree down," Baltuch said. "I couldn't even get out the front door."

Baltuch said she called 911, and first responders ordered her out of the house amid worries of a fire since power lines were down.

Sheri Akelson of Livingston also had a tree come down of her property. She said the sky turned black and the winds started cranking, and soon afterward, down came the tree through the roof.

"I was afraid to go near the windows. I heard a huge, huge crash, and I heard glass break," Akelson said. "The tree went through the roof of the house, and then the water started coming in through the attic."

WCBS 880's Wayne Cabot also posted video to Facebook showing branches and trees along a New Jersey road after storms passed through.

The storm even brought down trees and power lines outside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's house in Mendham. Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, were seen surveying the damage late Thursday afternoon.

In Jersey City, the storms dumped several inches of rain and left busy Tonnelle Avenue flooded.

One woman driving a silver Mercedes Benz was caught in about two feet of floodwater on Tonnelle Avenue. Another driver also got stuck.

One of the women said half an hour passed before she was able to get out of her car.

"Nine-one-one just said get out of the car," she said. "How am I going to get out? There's water all over."

This woman was in tears as she talked on her cellphone, waiting to be bailed out of the flood.

"The car is ruined because of the stupid water," she said. "It's not going to work anymore."

Jersey City police later pushed the two cars out of the water, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported.

And in Fort Lee, a lightning strike from the storms was blamed for a fire that broke out in a residential duplex that was under construction.

Fort Lee Lightning Strike Fire
A lightning strike was blamed for a fire at this Fort Lee, New Jersey duplex on Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Credit: Valerie Castro/CBS2)

"A lightning strike - it's not exactly common but it's also not uncommon. It does happen," a fire official said, "and you know, for the sake of the building, you know, there was no resident. It was unoccupied, so no residents were hurt."

Some workers were painting the other half of the duplex when the lightning struck, but they were not hurt, CBS2's Valerie Castro reported.

A firefighter was treated for some minor lacerations.

The storms on Thursday won't make for any relief from the heat.

Overnight, the low will drop to 76 degrees with a leftover storm to the north and east and conditions remaining humid, Quinn reported.

On Friday, the forecast high is 93 degrees, with heat indices making it feel like 95.


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