Bloomberg News

East Coast Storms Ground Planes, Cut Power to Thousands

July 27, 2012

Thousands Lose Power, Flights Canceled After U.S. Storm Strikes

Clouds gather over apartment buildings ahead of a thunderstorm on the east side of Manhattan July 26, 2012 in New York. Photographer: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly 1,000 flights were canceled, trees were snapped, and hundreds of thousands were left without power after a line of powerful storms swept across the U.S. from Texas to Connecticut.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency in Chemung County after a tornado reportedly touched down in Elmira, where author Mark Twain is buried. A woman was killed by a falling tree in Pennsylvania, AccuWeather said.

Most of the damage from yesterday’s event occurred in New York and Pennsylvania. where the weather front may have created a rare wind storm known as a derecho.

A derecho is defined as an event that has wind gusts of at least 58 miles (93 kilometer) per hour and leaves a swath of damage for a minimum of 240 miles, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center.

“At this point it is fair to say it is going to probably be a derecho,” said Corey Mead, a meteorologist at the center in Norman, Oklahoma. “There is definitely going to be a continuous pattern of wind damage across New York, Pennsylvania and southern New England.”

Power Out

Almost 386,000 customers were without power, including 4,000 in New York City, as of 8:30 p.m. New York time yesterday after the storms passed through, utilities reported. About 188,000 customers across more than a dozen states were still blacked out as of about 7:30 a.m. East Coast time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from utility websites.

At least 974 flights were canceled around the U.S. yesterday, with New York’s LaGuardia Airport the hardest hit having 177 departures scrubbed, said FlightAware, a tracking company based in Houston.

According to storm reports, winds of 75 mph, strong enough to match a Category 1 hurricane, were recorded in Ohio and Kentucky. A gust of 74 mph was recorded in Pennsylvania. Hail was reported from Arkansas to Pennsylvania, with the largest report so far being 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) in Montgomery, according to the storm center.

Severe storms with lightning, hail and tornadoes accounted for about $8.8 billion in insured losses in the U.S. in the first six months of 2012, more than any other type of natural disaster, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York.

Derecho Strike

The mid-Atlantic was struck by a derecho last month, leaving 4.3 million people without power from New Jersey to North Carolina as it unleashed winds of as much as 91 mph. Twenty-four deaths were linked to the gale and its aftermath, according to the Associated Press.

Yesterday’s storms were caused when a cold front swept across the U.S., Mead said. The most intense turbulence was in the Northeast, he said.

In New York’s Chemung County, thousands of trees were shredded, businesses and homes were damaged and widespread power outages were reported, according to Cuomo. The state of emergency allows New York to waive rules that might hinder getting people there immediate help, a statement from the governor said.

Nearly 100,000 people in New York and about 145,000 in Pennsylvania were without electricity service, according to utility websites. New York City had about 4,000 people without power as storms rolled through, according to Consolidated Edison Inc.

Utilities Report

FirstEnergy Corp. (FE:US), based in Akron, Ohio, said about 119,000 customers in Pennsylvania and 13,200 customers in Ohio had lost electricity by 8:30 p.m. American Electric Power Co., (AEP:US) based in Columbus, Ohio, said more than 51,000 customers were blacked out, while NYSEG, a unit of Iberdrola SA, had about 52,000 without service in New York, according to the utility’s website.

In West Virginia, 6,829 customers had lost their power as of 11 p.m., according to Appalachian Power’s website. The company is owned by American Electric Power. An additional 603 customers were without electricity in Indiana, according to Duke Energy (DUK:US) Corp.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Banker at

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