Storms Bring Drenching Rain And Knocks Down Trees; Lightning Sets L.I. House Ablaze

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A storm system left the Tri-State Area awash Thursday, and also ripped down trees and sent a lightning bolt that left a Long Island house ablaze.

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As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, people were just beginning late Thursday to survey the damage from the powerful storm that slammed the area for most of the day.

In Wantagh, Long Island, firefighters rushed to a burning home that had been struck by lightning on Wedgewood Lane.

Just minutes earlier, neighbors had carried out the woman still inside.

“We heard a lightning strike — a neighbor across the street. Heard some yelling going on. I ran outside. Saw that the neighbor’s house was on fire,” said neighbor Larry Lane. “She was very horrified by what was going on, so we lifted her up and removed her from the back of the house because she was in danger.”

Once the woman was safe, firefighters were able to rescue her dog. Both were lucky to have made it out.

Meanwhile, severe damage left a gaping hole in the home.

“It is quite extensive on the second floor; quite a heavy smoke situation on the house,” said Wantagh Fire Department spokesman Kevin Regan.

Neighbors said they did not think twice about helping out.

“A neighbor is in need. It was a serious situation,” Lane said. “All of the neighbors responded.”

Farther east, the weather may have been partly to blame for a car that wound up in the water off the Brookhaven Boat Ramp in Port Jefferson.

“The rain was coming down pretty heavy,” said Good Samaritan Neil Devine. “I don’t know how he ended up in the water.”

Good Samaritans jumped in to find the driver, who was stuck inside. The driver was in critical condition late Thursday.

“We were all throwing lines to him,” Devine said. “Someone brought out a rescue ring we attached to a rope that we found on the dock, threw it out, and the other man that had jumped in the water he was able to get him out.”

And in New Jersey, a tree came down across four lanes of Northfield Avenue in West Orange. Power lines were left strewn across the road.

The weather also brought delays of five hours to John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty International airports Thursday evening. LaGuardia saw delays of 15 minutes.

The rain also brought its share of misery.

As CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, light rain made perfect circles on a pond in Haworth, New Jersey for much of the day. But then, skies unleashed.

In Garfield, some dashed to try to dodge the torrential rain. Others braved it under their umbrellas. Lightning lit up the sky, and thunder followed.

More spring storms got mixed reviews from New Jerseyans. Eugene Daniele of Saddle Brook had no problem with it.

“Not at all,” he said. “Think about it — in the summer, they’re going to tell us there’s no water. So let it rain.”

One little girl named Emma didn’t seem to mind the rain either. She was decked out in all the necessary gear, including rain boots.

“We haven’t taken them off in a long time,” said her mother, Jen Kottke.

Over the past two weeks, there have been only three dry days registered in Newark, CBS2’s Murdock reported.

That means there has been some improvement when it comes to a persistent drought for parts of the area. Northern New Jersey is no longer under a moderate drought but is now only abnormally dry, while Long Island has been removed completely from the list and is now just “normal” when it comes to drought.

But the Lower Hudson Valley remains under a moderate drought.

But persistent rains also mean reservoir levels have swelled. In fact, the Oradell reservoir level stands at 103 percent.

It was quite the contrast to what it looked like six months ago. In October, the water level was nearly immeasurable – but now it is 23.5 feet deep.

In October, the muck was so dry that it cracked under the stress of the drought, but now, water pools above saturated earth. And in October, there was also barely enough water to float a boat, but now it is hard to tell there is even an underpass in the reservoir.

SUEZ water director of communications Billie Gallo said swollen levels are not out of the ordinary for April. Murdock asked if SUEZ has concerns about flooding, and Gallo assured CBS2 that staff are paying close attention to today’s rains.

“We have staff monitoring the levels of the reservoir very carefully,” she said.

Meanwhile, a New Jersey state climatologist said the rain is “liquid gold,” and means the area will not be entering into the season of summer with a water deficit.

Rainfall topped out at .41 inch in New York City on Thursday, .53 inch in Poughkeepsie, .69 inch in Toms River, .76 inch in Newark, .88 inch in Islip, .99 inch in Trenton, 1.08 inches in Andover, and 1.2 inches in Bridgeport.

CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported the soaking storm system was leaving the area at 11 p.m. Thursday. But leftovers are expected to persist on Friday.

A few snowflakes could even be seen to the north and west.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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