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Fierce storms in Northeast, yes, but probably not a derecho

July 27, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Storm clouds loom over Times Square as Manhattan braces for heavy weather in New York.
Storm clouds loom over Times Square as Manhattan braces for heavy weather… (John Minchillo / Associated…)

The Northeast, and New York in particular, had to deal with some fierce storms this week, but the event most likely wasn’t a true derecho, officials said Friday.

Though the storms carried strong winds that brought down power lines and led to the deaths of at least two people, meteorologists were reluctant to characterize them as a derecho, a series of wind storms over a large area.

“There is no official proclamation,” Joey Picca , a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times from his office in Upton N.Y. on Long Island. “What we saw yesterday wasn’t a derecho in the traditional sense because it wasn’t widespread enough. Although we did see a large line of thunderstorms, it was lacking the true intensity you would like to see in a derecho.”

A derecho is defined as an event that has wind gusts of at least 58 mph and leaves a swath of damage for a minimum of 240 miles, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center.

At its peak, Thursday's storm moved across the Northeast, hitting Pennsylvania and New York especially hard. Storms are expected to continue on Friday and into Saturday, though with much less intensity, according to the weather service.

Hundreds of airline flights have been canceled in the last few days. More than 350,000 customers, including 4,000 in the New York City area, were without electricity at one point. Most had power back by Friday evening.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in the Elmira, N.Y., region.

But by late afternoon Friday, NYSEG, the area’s utility, had returned power to 50% of those in the Elmira area and to 90% of all of the customers that had lost electricity in other parts of upstate New York. About 75% of those in the Elmira area were expected to be back on the grid by Saturday and the rest sometime on Sunday, according to Cuomo’s office.

At least two deaths were reported: a 61-year-old man who was struck by collapsing scaffolding outside a Brooklyn church hit by lightning, and a woman killed by a felled tree in Pennsylvania.

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