Fierce storms topple trees, power lines

Posted: July 26, 2012

Thunderstorm-driven gusts of 50 to 60 m.p.h. blew through the Philadelphia region before dusk Thursday, downing power lines and trees, knocking out electricity to 23,000 Peco customers, and reportedly blasting the cross-topped steeple of St. Martin de Porres School in the 2300 block of West Lehigh Avenue with a lightning strike.

A fast-moving line of storms formed off Lake Erie and made its way to the area around 6:30 p.m., said meteorologist Greg Heavener of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly. "Some areas had torrential downpours," he said, and 3,000 to 4,000 "cloud-to-ground" lightning strikes hit the region in under two hours.

Peco spokesman Ben Armstrong said Montgomery County bore the brunt of the damage, with 10,000 customers knocked off the grid. About 3,500 in Philadelphia, 3,500 in Bucks, 2,400 in Delaware, and 2,000 in Chester Counties also were affected. Much of the damage was from downed limbs.

"These are sustained outages," said Armstrong. Although crews would work through the night, power is not expected to be restored to some customers before sometime Friday. In New Jersey, about 10,700 PSE&G customers were without power late Thursday.    - Michael Matza

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