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East Coast Storms Ground Planes, Cut Power to Thousands

Thousands Lose Power, Flights Canceled After U.S. Storm Strikes
Clouds gather over apartment buildings ahead of a thunderstorm on the east side of Manhattan July 26, 2012 in New York. Photographer: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly 1,000 flights were canceled, trees were snapped, and hundreds of thousands were left without power after a line of powerful storms swept across the U.S. from Texas to Connecticut.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency in Chemung County after a tornado was reported in Elmira, where author Mark Twain is buried. A woman was killed by a falling tree in Pennsylvania, AccuWeather said.

Storms from the same system will move through the Southeast today with strong wind, rain and hail, AccuWeather said. The weather will be worst from northern Georgia into Maryland, the State College, Pennsylvania-based forecaster said.

Most of the damage from yesterday’s event occurred in New York and Pennsylvania, where the weather front may have created a rare wind storm known as a derecho.

A derecho is defined as an event that has wind gusts of at least 58 miles (93 kilometer) per hour and leaves a swath of damage for a minimum of 240 miles, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center.

“At this point it is fair to say it is going to probably be a derecho,” said Corey Mead, a meteorologist at the center in Norman, Oklahoma. “There is definitely going to be a continuous pattern of wind damage across New York, Pennsylvania and southern New England.”

Power Out

Almost 386,000 customers were without power, including 4,000 in New York City, as of 8:30 p.m. New York time yesterday after the storms passed through, utilities reported. About 188,000 customers across more than a dozen states were still blacked out as of about 7:30 a.m. East Coast time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from utility websites.

Some 173 flights around the U.S. were canceled today, compared with 1,012 yesterday, said FlightAware, a tracking company based in Houston. New York’s LaGuardia Airport was the hardest hit yesterday with 180 departures scrubbed.

According to storm reports, winds of 75 mph, strong enough to match a Category 1 hurricane, were recorded in Ohio and Kentucky. A gust of 74 mph was recorded in Pennsylvania. Hail was reported from Arkansas to Pennsylvania, with the largest report so far being 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) in Montgomery, according to the storm center.

Severe storms with lightning, hail and tornadoes accounted for about $8.8 billion in insured losses in the U.S. in the first six months of 2012, more than any other type of natural disaster, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York.

Derecho Strike

The mid-Atlantic was struck by a derecho last month, leaving 4.3 million people without power from New Jersey to North Carolina as it unleashed winds of as much as 91 mph. Twenty-four deaths were linked to the gale and its aftermath, according to the Associated Press.

Yesterday’s storms were caused when a cold front swept across the U.S., Mead said. The most intense turbulence was in the Northeast, he said.

In New York’s Chemung County, thousands of trees were shredded, businesses and homes were damaged and widespread power outages were reported, according to Cuomo. The state of emergency allows New York to waive rules that might hinder getting people there immediate help, a statement from the governor said.

Nearly 100,000 people in New York and about 145,000 in Pennsylvania were without electricity service, according to utility websites. New York City had about 4,000 people without power as storms rolled through, according to Consolidated Edison Inc.

Utilities Report

FirstEnergy Corp., based in Akron, Ohio, said about 69,500 customers in Pennsylvania and 550 customers in Ohio were still without electricity as of 6:45 a.m. Eastern time. That compares with 119,000 and 13,200, respectively, in the two states yesterday. American Electric Power Co., based in Columbus, Ohio, said 14,730 customers were still blacked out, down from 51,000 yesterday, while NYSEG, a unit of Iberdrola SA, had about 39,000 without service in New York versus 52,000 yesterday, according to the utility’s website.

In West Virginia, 10,660 customers were without power as of 6:45 a.m., according to Appalachian Power’s website. The company is owned by American Electric Power. Almost all of Duke Energy Corp.’s customers in Indiana now have power restored, compared with 603 without electricity yesterday.

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