A line of intense thunderstorms rolled through the I-95 corridor this evening during the height of rush hour, stranding commuters, tearing down trees and power lines, damaging buildings, and even injuring a few people. After the rain wound down, more than 800,000 customers from D.C. to New Jersey were without power.
The organized line of thunderstorms may have been the worst severe thunderstorm event in this region since the deadly derecho of June 29, 2012, which caused widespread damage in the Mid-Atlantic, knocking out power for millions of people at the peak of a brutal heat wave.
As of 8:00 PM EDT, power companies across the Mid-Atlantic reported more than 800,000 power outages as a result of the storm. More than 440,000 customers were without power in New Jersey, with 207,000 outages in southeastern Pennsylvania around Philadelphia, and nearly 172,000 outages in the D.C./Baltimore area (Dominion Virginia, PEPCO, BG&E) and the Delmarva Peninsula.
Reports of damage are still filtering in to the National Weather Service as people and officials get out and survey the damage. As of 9:35 PM EDT, the agency received more than 150 reports of damaging winds or large hail from the storms in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Widespread tree and power line damage is commonplace anywhere that was on the receiving end of the winds from this line of storms, which often gusted well above 60 MPH in the strongest segments. The airport in Wilmington, Delaware, reported a wind gust to 67 MPH, and a WeatherBug station in Chester, Pennsylvania, reported a wind gust up to 78 MPH. The storm even caused a couple of injuries. Two people in Chester Heights, Pennsylvania—a western suburb of Philadelphia—are in the hospital tonight after a large tree fell on their home during the storm.
DEVELOPING: My thoughts are with the couple living here in Chester Heights. Both made it out alive. In the hospital. pic.twitter.com/vrtnuOWt3FJune 24, 2015
The storms struck at the height of rush hour, and in addition to major delays on highways, public transportation was also heavily affected. As the storms rolled through, Amtrak temporarily suspended service between D.C. and Philadelphia, and just about every line on SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) was delayed by at least two hours due to power outages and the sheer ferocity of the storms.
Meteorologists did an excellent job predicting this severe weather outbreak a couple of days in advance, targeting at least part of area with a slight risk for severe weather as early as Sunday, and upgrading the entire I-95 corridor from D.C. to Boston to an enhanced (three out of five) risk for severe weather early on Tuesday morning. Severe weather watches went up hours before the storms struck, and each of the storms had plenty of lead time between the severe thunderstorm warnings and the time the storms arrived.
[Images: AP, author | Updated the storm reports map at 9:35 PM to reflect a slug of new wind/hail reports.]