NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tuesday began as a summer scorcher for the New York City area, but extreme heat gave way to pounding rain and power outages for many.

Squalls of torrential rain were reported around the area late Tuesday afternoon, and when the storms were through, trees were down and damage was widespread.

In New Jersey, trees fell like dominoes – crushing cars, blocking streets, and coming dangerously close to homes.

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In Gloucester County in southern New Jersey, the violent storm flipped a car upside down in the parking lot of the Deptford Mall.

In Hammonton, New Jersey, video showed trees blowing as the storm approached.

PHOTOS: Storm Damage

As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, major problems were also seen in Queens. At 65th Avenue and 165th Street in Fresh Meadows, a bolt of lightning took down a massive tree – crushing two cars and making 165th Street completely impassable.

“It was a loud bang — very loud!” said area resident Lorraine Pedroso.

Pedroso heard the crash as the fierce storm pulled through. People living on the cusp of danger said they saw a bolt of lightning tear through the tree before it fell.

“I see the tree is like, flying — flying on our house,” said Mika Kabir.

A van and a car were crushed by the tree, and the Fire Department assisted on the scene before the city was to start the cleanup. No one was hurt.

“There was no one around; no one was walking, so no one was hurt, thank God,” Pedroso said.

Just a few miles away at 149th Street and Ash Avenue in Flushing, lightning hit the steeple on top of the Unitarian Universalist Church and ignited a small fire. The NYPD 109th Precinct distributed a photo.

A lightning strike was blamed for this church fire at 149th Street and Ash Avenue in Queens. (Credit: NYPD 109th Precinct)

A lightning strike was blamed for this church fire at 149th Street and Ash Avenue in Queens. (Credit: NYPD 109th Precinct)

Fire crews stationed just blocks away rushed in to put it out, and had numerous other calls come in.

“We had a few flooding; we had a few wires down — but this was by far the most serious thing,” said FDNY Battalion 52 Chief Dennis Crichton. “Luckily, the storm passed through pretty quickly.”

Power outages also affected tens of thousands of customers around the Tri-State Area as a result of the storms.

South Jersey was hit particularly hard, with more than 85,000 Public Service Electric & Gas customers without power at the peak of outages Tuesday evening, WCBS 880 reported.

PSE&G told some South Jersey residents they might not get power back until Thursday or Friday.

Connecticut was also hit hard, with more than 47,000 Eversource Energy customers without power at the peak of the outages Tuesday evening. The hardest hit municipality was Newtown, with almost half of all those served by the utility without power, WCBS 880 reported.

More than 4,800 customers were without power in New York City at the peak of the outages, with most – more than 3,700 – on Staten Island, WCBS 880 reported.

The NYPD’s 109th Precinct also reported a fire at a church at 149th Street and Ash Avenue in Flushing, Queens, which was blamed on a lightning strike.

Earlier in Bryant Park, it was breezy and completely overcast at times. But those factors seemed to have little impact on the heat or humidity, CBS2 meteorologist Elise Finch reported.

At noon, it was 88 degrees in the park and felt like 93.

But that didn’t keep people from heading outside to eat lunch, get some work done or even participate in a group yoga session.

After the long, frigid winter, most people Finch spoke to said they were pretty happy about Tuesday’s heat and warmth — others, however, not so much.

“I like the heat and the sun,” said Jeff Mitchell, of the Bronx. “I could do without the humidity, but I like being warm.”

Victor Chang, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, said he prefers “springtime, falltime — a nice 60, 70 degrees.” He said Tuesday’s weather was “way too hot.”

“There’s so many people around you, like you feel like you’re sticking to everybody,” one woman added.

CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported late Tuesday that temperatures dropped to 79 degrees in New York City after the storms passed.

On Thursday, temperatures should start off in the 70s and rise to a comparatively cool 84 degrees with sunny skies, according to CBS2 Weather.

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