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Severe Thunderstorms Tear Through Delaware Valley

By Steve Strouss

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Severe thunderstorms tore through the Delaware Valley this evening with damaging winds, blinding downpours and relentless lightning. Wind gusts exceeding 70 mph knocked downed thousands of trees, poles and wires, causing power outages for hundreds of thousands of customers from the Poconos to Jersey shore the Delaware beaches.

The hardest hit areas were the suburbs of Philadelphia. Highways and roads became impassible. Some due to toppled traffic lights and others because of debris and accidents. Many people just pulled over or stopped because the visibility was so poor they couldn't see ten feet in front of them during the torrential rains. Numerous homes and cars were crushed by downed trees and trains and planes were cancelled or delayed during the height of the storm. Over 5,200 cloud to ground lightning strikes were counted between 5PM-9PM and that's nearly a lightning strike every 2.7 seconds.

Tornado warnings were issued in Chester County, PA and central NJ and the cost of damage across the entire region will likely add up in the hundreds of millions.

In the wake of the storms, many people saw a beautiful pink hue in the sky. This was due to the thinning clouds behind the storms with the setting sun. The scattering of light through the atmosphere captured colors with long wavelengths, like orange pink and red!

It certainly was a wild day. These storms were fueled by intense heat. Temperatures and dew points were so high that heat Indices were in the triple digits during the afternoon. Heat so intense that we had our first heat wave of the season with a high of 95 degrees, tieing our hottest temperature of 2015 in Philadelphia, and capping off three straight days in the 90s.

The good news is that we've got two dry, sunny and cooler days ahead. The bad news is that those two days will be replaced by even cooler, rainy days over the weekend. We are tracking showers Friday through Sunday with highs only in the mid 70s.

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