Powerful Storms Down Trees, Bring More Than 2 Inches Of Rain To The Area

MANAHAWKIN, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Authorities determined Tuesday that a powerful storm that hit Stafford Township earlier in the day was in fact an EF0 tornado.

The twister touched down at 10:05 a.m. with maximum speeds of 75-85 mph. It was two miles in length and about 50-100 yards wide, the National Weather Service said.

The twister tore down trees and branches throughout the town, blowing out windows and snapping power lines.

Walter Drag of the NWS said earlier that the storm that hit Tuesday was rotating, and that inspectors were sent to the scene to confirm whether it was a tornado.

“There was some straight-line wind damage which has not been confirmed at this point as a tornado, but it does appear to me that it would be consistent with a tornado,” Stafford Township Police Capt. Thomas DeLane told 1010 WINS earlier in the day. “We have multiple trees down in the area, multiple lightning strikes and several structure fires as well.”

Storms in the area left hundreds without power after dumping 2 inches or more of rain.

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DeLane said the Manahawkin Baptist Church had a section of its roof ripped off.

“What’s kind of ironic is that a portion of the debris that’s still sitting on the roof is in the shape of a cross,” DeLane said.

“It was quite a roaring sound as it took us,” the church’s Kathleen Thulin told CBS 2’s Lou Young.

There was extensive damage throughout the building. The rugs were soaked, and the alarms were going off.  Three people were inside the building, but no one was injured, Young reported.

“Everybody’s safe. It’s a building. We can rebuild the building,” Thulin said.

The neighboring Lighthouse Christian Academy also sustained some damage, but fortunately no injuries were reported since school is out for summer, DeLane said.

“It was in one shot,” resident Kay Nugent told Young about the storm. “In less than five seconds and it just shot everything down the street.”

Residents said they knew a tornado warning was in effect. Up the block, resident Katie Croft said she got the message 10 minutes before the storm hit.

“I was actually getting an alert on my phone and it said tornado watch and it was obviously stunning,” Croft said.

Manahawkin residents said the fast-moving storm cell was scary.

“The house rattled and it was crazy,” Manahawkin resident Dan Dastugues told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith. “I grabbed the baby and the dog, got in the bathroom and huddled down for a minute and then it was just rain again. It was weird.”

“I was thinking my whole house was coming down. I was scared because I saw the trees hitting the house,” Bonnie Femiano told Smith. “Sounded like a train was going through.”

Doug Sponsler’s property was one of the hardest hit by the storm.

“The rain was coming down straight, and within five minutes we watched the trees swirl, the wind changed and took down trees,” Sponsler told CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco. “My new truck, my fiancée’s new truck, thank God it missed the house, the cars can be replaced.”

Along a narrow swath of the town, large trees have been uprooted, snapped in half or splintered because of lightning strikes.

“Our whole entire backyard, every tree is down,” a resident said.

“Worst storm I’ve ever seen, yeah. Worst aftermath. Worse than Sandy for here,” resident AJ Sammarco said.

The storm was one of a line of powerful storms with damaging winds that raked southern and central New Jersey. Other strong storms were reported in Gloucester and Camden counties.

Some voting booths in Burlington County had to be moved when water seeped into polling places.

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