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Storms disrupt SEPTA rail service; EF-2 tornado damages dozens of homes in Delco

An EF-2 tornado embedded within a swath of straight line wind damage hit Thornbury Township during the storms.

Nearby neighbors Shane wilson, left, and sister Noelle Wilson, center, walk their dog Auggie past a damaged house on Chelsea Court in Thornbury Township.
Nearby neighbors Shane wilson, left, and sister Noelle Wilson, center, walk their dog Auggie past a damaged house on Chelsea Court in Thornbury Township.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

Damage from Halloween storms — including a tornado that cut a half-mile path of destruction through a Delaware County neighborhood — ripped through the Philadelphia region and caused daylong disruptions, with some SEPTA service halted, roadways blocked by fallen trees, and power outages lingering.

The National Weather Service said an EF-2 tornado embedded within a swath of straight line wind damage hit Thornbury Township, ripping away at homes but causing no serious injuries. The 250-yard wide tornado moved about a half mile with peak wind speeds at 120 mph in Glen Mills and 110 mph in Hartsville.

Meanwhile, Peco crews were working to restore power to the 130,000 customers in Southeastern Pennsylvania who lost electricity during the storm and its aftermath. As of early evening about 31,000 customers remained offline, most of them in Bucks and Montgomery counties.

Numerous roads also were closed by downed trees and power lines, and some schools suspended classes Friday, including Temple University’s Ambler Campus.

Service on multiple SEPTA Regional Rail lines was disrupted by the storm, but at least limited service had returned to all routes by Friday evening. Riders were warned to expect delays, overcrowding, and skipped stations, however, as operations were restored.

Amtrak also announced cancellations and schedule changes due to storm damage on parts of the Northeast Corridor.

In Thornbury Township, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Raith said eight houses sustained major damage and dozens more had broken windows, siding ripped off and downed trees from the tornado that hit in the area of Chelsea Court. Many cars also were damaged, he said.

One person required treatment for minor injuries, cuts and bruises, Raith said. In Ambler, rescuers had to cut through branches to reach an elderly couple who were trapped in their bedroom when a tree fell on their home. But no serious injuries were reported in the storm.

Lee Robertson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Mount Holly office, said storm survey teams were sent to Thornbury Township and Bucks County.

“There’s damage all over the place,” he said.

A tornado warning was issued for Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, and lifted just before midnight. A second warning was issued for parts of Buck County and and a strip of New Jersey on the other side of the Delaware River.

The storms and strong winds were the product of an arriving cold front that will make things much cooler for the next few days. The weather service had warned that gusts of up to 60 mph could accompany the front, especially since trees in the region remain mostly leaf-filled. Leaves add weight to branches and intercept the wind.

The front was attached to a storm that has been a conspirator in a wild week of weather across the country, from the California wildfires, to the bitter cold in Colorado, to the record Halloween snow in Chicago to the balmy and potentially volatile weather in Philadelphia.

» READ MORE: How frigid air is conspiring with fire-fanning winds to haunt California

The storm was moving into southeastern Canada late Thursday, and Philadelphia was to the east, or mild side of the center. Temperatures shot up to 75 degrees at Philadelphia International Airport, well above normal but shy of the record for the date, 82, set in 1946.

Just more than a half inch of rain fell, officially, in Philadelphia Thursday, pushing the total for October close to 3.7 inches — triple what fell in a parched September.

Temperatures for the month have averaged 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal at Philadelphia International Airport.

This will mark the 10th-straight October of above-normal temperatures in Philadelphia.

But Saturday morning could bring the lowest temperatures in over six months, and come Monday morning, Philadelphia officially could experience its first freezing reading of the season.

Staff writer Ellie Rushing contributed to this report.