Residents of this rural central New York town on Wednesday picked through debris from homes battered by a deadly tornado, and utility crews worked to restore power in several Eastern states hit by severe storms.
In all, five people died Tuesday as strong thunderstorms blew down buildings, trees and utility lines and left hundreds of thousands without power into Wednesday.
Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley said Kimberly Hillard, 35; her 4-month-old daughter, Paris Newman; Virginia Warner, 70; and Arnie Allen, 53, were killed in the rural town of Smithfield, between Utica and Syracuse.
He said four homes were destroyed and numerous others were damaged, with Allen’s two-story home blown hundreds of feet before it landed on an unoccupied house.
In Manchester, Maryland, a tree fell at the River Valley Ranch summer camp, killing one child and injuring six others headed to a shelter.
Tornadoes also touched down in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Barbara Watson, the meteorologist leading the weather service survey team in New York, said the Smithfield tornado’s winds were at least 100 mph and certainly reached undetermined higher speeds.
Garry Sprague lives across the street from Hillard’s property, where three vehicles were partially buried in some of the wreckage from the torn-apart house. Wood from the home’s framing and walls was scattered around the lawn, and a hot tub sat amid the rubble.
Sprague’s home was untouched, but he said he knew immediately afterward that things were bad at his neighbor’s.
“If they were in it, they had to be gone,” he said. “You can only assume the worst at that point. This is horrible, just horrible.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said several other central and northern New York counties were damaged but added it was “nothing like what happened here in Madison County.”
The scene of the devastation was the latest Cuomo has visited in his nearly four years in office, during which the state has been hit by hurricanes, severe flooding and several damaging tornadoes. He attributes the natural disasters to “a pattern of extreme weather.”
“We don’t get tornadoes in New York, right?” he said during a news conference in the town public works garage. “Anyone will tell you that. Well, we do now.”
Scattered thunderstorms were forecast for upstate New York starting Wednesday afternoon, but no watches or warnings were issued.
Nearly 44,000 utility customers in central and northern New York were still without power at midday Wednesday.
Forecasters confirmed that at least two tornados hit different parts of Pennsylvania, where more than 300,000 customers lost power at the peak of the storms. The weather service said a tornado packing maximum winds estimated at 90 mph touched down Tuesday afternoon near the western Pennsylvania town of Hoagland. Another tornado touched down Tuesday evening near New Albany in the northeastern part of the state. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 81,500 homes and businesses were still without power in Pennsylvania, more than half of them in the Philadelphia suburbs.
The National Weather Service said three small tornadoes also touched down in northeastern Ohio, causing minor damage.
In Maryland, the storm blew down two tent canopies that had been erected for Wednesday’s 150th anniversary event at the Monocacy National Battlefield near Frederick, according to Chief Ranger Jeremy Murphy, but the event was held as scheduled.
Utilities in the Baltimore-Washington area reported about 34,000 power outages as of early Wednesday afternoon.
In New Jersey, nearly 5,500 homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday afternoon.
Associated Press writers George M. Walsh and Chris Carola contributed from Albany, New York.
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