Reporting Kathryn Brown
PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A powerful storm system that killed more than 270 people across the South made its way through the Tri-State area Thursday.
Tornado warnings were issued for Passaic, Essex, Hunterdon, Warren and Bergen counties in New Jersey and Rockland and Orange counties in New York.
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Severe thunderstorm and flash flood watches were also in effect in many parts of New Jersey and New York for most of the day.
High winds brought down trees in parts of Morris and Somerset counties earlier Thursday.
In Randolph, residents said they were awestruck by the ferocity of Mother Nature.
“I saw a mist go by the window that way and then the crack and then the tree came down, and then the other tree came down and took down all the wires,” one Randolph resident told CBS 2’s Katie Fehlinger.
One resident’s fence was even blown away by the storm.
The skies opened up on the Tri-State area Thursday afternoon with severe storms that made travel nearly impossible.
“It rained so hard that I couldn’t even see and my wipers were on high. I had to pull over,” Kevin Johnson said.
“The wind was whipping and it was dark. And it was scary because my daughter is in school and I didn’t know what was going on there,” Buffie Hyman added.
The fury was short-lived, but left a mark.
“The winds lasted maybe a minute, but the damage was done,” Johnson said.
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Earlier, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo activated the statewide Emergency Operations Center.
The same storm system hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama like a bomb. Homes and buildings in the college town were reduced to rubble after a massive tornado touched down Wednesday evening.
“We have hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed and hundreds more damaged,” said Walt Maddox, Tuscaloosa mayor.
Former 1010 WINS news anchor James Faherty, who relocated to Birmingham, AL, said the storm carried debris from the devastating path it took from Tuscaloosa — which is 50 miles away.
“When it rolled in, it was just the most ominous looking thing you’ve ever seen,” Faherty said. “There’s nothing you can do but just stand there and watch helplessly as this thing rolled through dealing mayhem.”
The powerful storm system moved through the South with strong thunderstorms, hurricane-force winds and a wave of tornadoes.
Officials were still trying to determine exactly how many tornadoes touched down, but for storm victims from Texas to Virginia, this has been a week of misery.
President Barack Obama has authorized the federal government to coordinate relief efforts.
Did you get hit by the storm? Any damage? Leave a comment below.