Severe Storms Strike L.I., Conn.

State of Emergency declared in Bridgeport, Ct.

Severe storms swept across the Northeast and tore through Connecticut's largest city Thursday, downing trees and power lines, shattering windows and toppling church steeples.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch declared a state of emergency after the suspected  tornado caused widespread damage.  A micro burst in parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties caused power outages, downed trees and knocked the LIRR Port Washington and Oyster Bay lines out of service and caused delays on other lines. 

In Connecticut, United Illuminating reported nearly 11,000 customers without power after the storms, along with about 3,800 customers of Connecticut Light & Power. Sporadic power outages have been reported around the region including Staten Island and Queens.

Bridgeport appeared to be hit the hardest. Hundreds of bricks shook loose from buildings, trees split in half and crushed cars, and a billboard hung precariously several stories up over Main Street.

Jacqueline Arroyo, 44, said she saw a black cloud and ran inside to her third-floor apartment, where the window exploded. Trees were blown so ferociously they appeared to be coming out of the ground, and people were screaming, she said.

"All the wind started coming inside the house. I heard 'boom, boom!'" she said. "It was so fast but terrifying."

A jail is without power, and there were reports of people stuck in elevators, Bidgeport Mayor Bill Finch said. The mayor urged residents to stay indoors and remain calm, and Gov. M. Jodi Rell was on her way to the city.

Rescuers were searching a downtown building after it collapsed during the storm, and state police were sending out a police dog to help search for anyone inside.

A Catholic high school, a museum dedicated to P.T. Barnum and several other buildings also had roof and window damage. Tree limbs and power lines blocked traffic on some roads in Bridgeport, a former industrial and manufacturing center of about 135,000 residents that has taken steps in recent years to revitalize areas downtown and waterfront properties.

 Orange, Putnam, Richmond (Staten Island), Westchester, Suffolk, Rockland and Nassau counties in New York are under a thunderstorm watch until 8 p.m.

Check back with for up-to-the-minute weather information.

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