Severe Thunderstorms Strike as Tri-State Heat Tops Records

Earlier, the temperature reached 103 degrees in Newark, breaking the previous record of 100 degrees

Severe thunderstorms gusted through the area Wednesday afternoon, bringing heavy rain, strong winds, spectacular lightning displays and quarter-sized hail as it knocked out power to thousands of homes and wreaked havoc across the region.

By Thursday, the clouds remained but the temperatures were significantly cooler and more pleasant.

New Yorkers faced a messy commute home Wednesday, in many cases dealing with flooding on subway platforms and even inside train cars. 

The 1/2/3 train platform at Penn Station saw particularly heavy flooding, with rainwater pouring in from above ground and water spouting from walls. There were no major train delays.

"Problems occur when there is a large amount of rain in a short amount of time," the MTA said in a statement. "Sometimes when the gutters are full on the street level, water flows into the system. We are working to clear areas of our stations where water has accumulated." 

New Jersey PATH service was suspended briefly due to signal failure. It was restored Wednesday night.

At least one injury is already being blamed on the storm, in the Long Island city of Glen Cove. Trees were halved and a gazebo destroyed in the community's historic Morgan's Park. One of four fishermen inside or near the gazebo has been taken to the hospital with a possible leg injury, said Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi.

"For a few minutes, it was sheer chaos," said park worker Vinny Bertin.

In Brookville, classes were canceled at Long Island University's CW Post after power was knocked out. 

Trees also fell and power lines snapped in Rockland County. In the village of Spring Valley, lightning hit the roof of one house, triggering an attic fire. No one was hurt. 

A Sayreville, N.J. resident is thankful he wasn't in his 18-foot pool when an oak tree crashed into it.

"Thank God we weren't swimming," said Chris White. "Everybody would've been dead." 

The storms were blamed for long delays at area airports, by an average of more than two hours at JFK Airport and La Guardia and more than an hour and a half at Newark. 

By Thursday morning, Con Edison reported less than 1,000 customers still without power, down from over 14,000 who lost power during the heat and thunderstorms. For the second day in a row, Con Ed's 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester set a record for 2012 peak electricity demand, topping out at 12,836 megawatts at 1p.m. Wednesday. 

On Long Island, LIPA said around 3,000 households were still without power. More than 10,000 outages were reported across New Jersey at its peak, but the number was down to around 1,000 by Thursday morning, according to Jersey Central Power and Light.

PSE&G reported less than 500 outages by Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, temperatures hit a record 104 degrees in Newark, with a heat index of a blistering 108. LaGuardia also a record high of 101, and JFK of 96. Central Park reached a high of 100, but it was not a record. 

The storms brought double-digit relief from record temperatures after three days of blazing heat and stifling humidity. In Central Park, the temperature plunged to 74 degrees after the storm passed through.

There were areas of street and highway flooding after the storm. In Newark, cars got stuck under a flooded overpass, surprising drivers on their way home. 

"I'm coming out of work, and I'm not expecting my car to turn off and it just shuts off on me," said Jonathan Cortes of Elizabeth. "I saw like three or four cars shut down right there." 

Though the heat has broken, the humidity is expected to linger. Thursday will be cloudy with a few showers possible. Cooler air will eventually push south into the area Friday, when temperatures aren't expected to exceed the 70s. The last time Central Park recorded a high in the 70s was June 26.

The weekend weather is expected to be pleasant, with mostly sunny skies and highs in the low- to-mid 80s.

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