NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Severe weather brought lightning and drenching rains to the Tri-State area early Wednesday evening, while Tropical Storm Arthur threatened parts of the East Coast.
Severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, and flash flood warnings, were issued around the area. A flash flood watch remained in effect for much of the area — including the five boroughs of New York City — through Friday morning.
The rain had let up by the late evening hours. But early Wednesday evening, a violent downpour soaked Midtown Manhattan to the point where just running across the street would leave a pedestrian looking like he’d gone into the shower with his clothes on.
Earlier Wednesday, a tornado warning was issued for parts of Sullivan County. It later expired.
But a violent storm did strike Sullivan County, dropping about 2 to 3 feet of rain in Jeffersonville and prompting the evacuation of some residents. An estimated 3 feet of water was reported on Main Street in Jeffersonville.
Portions of Route 52 between Youngsville and Jeffersonville were washed out due to the Callicoon Creek overflowing, and the road had to be shut down.
In New Jersey, lightning flashed, thunder boomed and warning sirens wailed, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.
“Yeah, crazy storm and lightning coming down the parkway,” said Mike Ramos.
The rain came down so hard, flash flooding wiped out intersections and some lanes and highways. Ramos was trying to navigate the parkway when the storm hit.
“It was scary. You could only go like 30 miles per hour on the highway. You get these people who think they can just go 60, 70 no matter what,” he said.
Some drivers reported seeing cars stuck in flooded out roadways. One man named Jim decided to ride it out at home.
“We got lucky. We didn’t lose any power,” he said.
The deluge caused widespread flash flooding in many areas, including a stretch under a railroad trestle in Cranford, New Jersey. Cars were left stranded and waterlogged, and some were towed away while the brave driver of a Mini Cooper tried to plow right through three feet of water.
The rain came in two waves – enough also to trap cars much closer to the city.
“The storm was bad — I could barely see out of my windshield. That part was bad. But over here, it didn’t get bad until like 45 minutes after it started raining,” said Andrew Pires of Cranford. “Now I’m stuck.”
That was not the worst of it.
“There were lightning bolts coming straight down,” said Vincent Colanelli of Cranford.
The Fourth of July was two nights in the future Tuesday, but there was quite the natural fireworks show in the skies over the Tri-State Area – with thunder sounding not unlike bombs bursting in air.
In Moonachie, New Jersey, power lines dropped to the ground – leaving menacing fireballs sizzling in the heavy rain.
In West Milford, lightning hit a transformer on Aspen Lane, sparking a fire on the second floor of a house across the street.
“The lightning strike caused the transformer to explode and maybe caused a backfeed into the house,” said West Milford Fire Marshal Mike Moscatello.
The homeowner was able to get out.
“I heard ‘pop, pop, pop,’” said homeowner Mary Wilhelmy. “The electric went out, there was thundering and lightning, and I heard, ‘pop, pop,’ and the lights went on again, and off again, and I smelled something like rubber burn.”
No injuries were reported as a direct result of the storms, although officials were investigating whether the weather was to blame for the collapse of a decorative façade on a Brooklyn Bridge underpass in downtown Brooklyn. The collapse sent five people to Bellevue Hospital Center.
The storms also brought widespread power outages to the area – most in New Jersey. As of shortly before 11 p.m., Public Service Electric and Gas reported 32,000 outages in New Jersey; Jersey Central Power and Light reported 3,200 outages in the state; Con Edison reported 1,900 outages in its service area in New York City and Westchester County, and Orange and Rockland reported 12,000 outages.
The storms also caused major airport delays Wednesday evening. Departure traffic was delayed an average of 2 hours and 14 minutes at Newark Liberty International Airport, 3 hours and 9 minutes at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and 2 hours and 20 minutes at LaGuardia Airport as of 8 p.m.
By 11 p.m., air traffic was largely back to normal.
And after so much trouble, the storm activity was not over late Wednesday night. Severe storms were still approaching Ocean and Monmouth counties at 11 p.m., Quinn reported.
A flood watch was to be in effect all through the day on Thursday, and even into Friday because of Tropical Storm Arthur.