Despite tornado warnings Wednesday evening, the National Weather Service said Thursday that there was no indication that a tornado touched down in the Philadelphia region.
The severe thunderstorms that blasted the region midday Wednesday killed at least three people and damaged homes and buildings — all from collapsing trees — and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers, officials said.
On Thursday, a chance of thunderstorms with damaging winds and heavy rainfall and a chance of hail was expected in the evening and could produce flooding, said Lee Robertson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.
Wednesday’s midday storm — classified as a derecho, based on the speed of the wind and swath of damage — caused two deaths in Lower Merion and one in Lower Moreland.
And in South Jersey, a mother and daughter almost lost their lives when two massive oak trees toppled onto their two-story Haddonfield home.
Ernie McNeely, Lower Merion’s township manager, said Thursday that a woman and a man died in separate incidents early Wednesday afternoon after trees fell on top of them while they were in their cars. The woman was driving alone on Belmont Avenue near Rock Hill Road, McNeely said. The man died after a tree fell on his car while he was parked in the driveway of his home on Medford Road.
Township crews on Thursday were “extremely busy dealing with all the outages and trees” that fell, he said.
“We had 145 locations with trees or large branches blocking roads, many also taking down wires,” McNeely said.
In Lower Moreland Township, Police Chief David Scirrotto said Thursday that a 38-year-old man who was working in a shop at the Philmont Country Club on Tomlinson Road in Huntingdon Valley died after a large tree collapsed onto the building about 12:25 p.m. Wednesday.
Haddonfield resident Brenda Zadjeika, 61, said Thursday, “We missed getting killed by seconds.” Early Wednesday afternoon, she said, she was on the front porch of her Colonial Avenue home when she saw a girl about 9 or 10 years old, with a pink bike, scared and screaming as the rains and winds suddenly raged. Zadjeika said that only by going out into the storm to help the girl did she fully realize the storm’s power and their peril, especially from an old oak just outside her home.
Zadjeika huddled outside with the young girl on the side of the house away from the tree and told her 23-year-old daughter, studying for law school in their dining room, to come outside.
The storm was over quickly, but Zadjeika said she then saw that the big oak across from her home — the second-oldest black oak in New Jersey — had toppled into another oak tree, crashing both on her home and into the dining room where her daughter had been sitting.
Zadjeika called the girl a “guardian angel" because if she hadn’t been on the street, “my daughter would have been dead.”
Zadjeika, a physical therapist with Jefferson Health in New Jersey now staying at a relative’s home, said she had previously complained about the stability of both trees to Haddonfield authorities. She said both trees belonged to the borough and were its responsibility.
Haddonfield Mayor Neal Rochford said Thursday
he did not immediately know whether the black oak belonged to the borough or New Jersey American Water. He said he did not know what had happened to Zadjeika’s complaints, saying the borough gets “hundreds of requests per year” concerning trees.
In South Jersey, tens of thousands of customers were still without power about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, including about 41,000 in Burlington County, 29,000 in Camden County, and 1,300 in Gloucester County, according to PSE&G, which serves those counties.
PECO spokesperson Greg Smore said about 2:30 p.m. Thursday that about 147,000 customers remained without power in the city and its four surrounding Pennsylvania counties.
In total, 563,000 customers experienced power outages from the storm, he said.
The Philadelphia-based electric company has added additional crews from its sister Exelon companies from other states as well as outside contractors to help restore downed wires and poles, he said. More than 90% of the customers who lost power should have it restored by the end of the day Friday, he said.
The damage Wednesday resulted from winds with measured speeds of 60 to 93 mph, said Robertson of the National Weather Service.