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Power outages, traffic woes, one death follow storms

Power outages and traffic chaos plagued Philadelphia's Pennsylvania suburbs this morning, as a result of a series of powerful thunderstorms that swept through the region last night.

Power outages and traffic chaos plagued Philadelphia's Pennsylvania suburbs this morning, as a result of a series of powerful thunderstorms that swept through the region last night.

And this morning, an Upper Merion man was found dead and his wife was hospitalized after being exposed to carbon monoxide from a generator in their kitchen that was turned on to keep their refrigerator running during the power outage last night.

As of noon, about 55,000 customers were still without power in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and some might not have their service back until tomorrow night, Peco said.

"We obviously are going to continue working around the clock until everyone is restored," said spokeswoman Cathy Engel.

In the Upper Merion incident, the gasoline-powered generator released the odorless, colorless gas, which poisoned the couple, whose names have not been released, said Montgomery County Coroner Walter Hoffman.

When the couple did not show up where they were expected this morning, a person came to their home to check on them, Hoffman said. The man was found dead, and the woman was airlifted to the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania.

Elsewhere, motorists were encountering hazards during their morning commutes, with traffic lights out and downed trees and wires closing roads.

At Abington Friends School, three maintenance men cleared fallen trees and branches from the grounds adjacent to the school's parking lot.

Aaron Serfass, one of the workers, said they spent yesterday trimming the low branches to accommodate overflow parking expected for tonight's graduation ceremonies.

"We wasted our time," Serfass said. "The storm would have done it for us. We should have just waited. Instead we were out in the heat, and here we are again."

Four lights were out in East Whiteland Township alone, and four roads were blocked by trees or wires just in Lower Providence Township.

Other roads with sections closed included, as of 8 a.m., Montgomery Avenue in Lower Merion, Warminster Road and Edge Hill Road in Upper Moreland, Horseshoe Trail in West Pikeland, Sproul Road in Radnor, Thousand Acre Road in West Rockhill, Highspire Road in East Brandywine Township, Boot Road in Newtown, Chester Pike (Route 13) in Ridley Park, Cedar Crest Boulevard in South Whitehall Township, Black Rock Road in Upper Providence, and Whitehall Road in Worchester Township.

For more details on locations and detours, go to

SEPTA service, which was affected last night, was back to normal this morning, the agency said. It had suffered delays and service suspensions on Regional Rail lines last night because of the storm and downed trees. Those problems have since been cleared.

Power outages hit areas north and west of the city hardest. In Montgomery County, 78,500 customers had service interrupted by the storms. In Chester County, 60,000 lost power, Engel said.

Peco was able to restore power to more than 80,000 customers by this morning, but at noon, 32,000 remained off-line in Montgomery County and more than 17,000 in Chester County.

"This certainly was a fast-moving, violent storm," Engel said.

Philadelphia was largely spared, except for about 2,100 households last night.

Peco said power had been restored to schools, which had early dismissals on Monday and yesterday. It said it had not been able to contact school officials in Coatesville, Abington and Upper Moreland.

The storm skirted South Jersey, but about 100,000 customers in North Jersey lost power overnight, PSE&G reported. Outages hit Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Passaic Counties, and power was not expected to be completely restored for several days, the utility reported.

Peco estimated that it was facing about 1,580 repair jobs, mostly in Montgomery and Chester Counties, as a result of one of the most damaging storms in the last couple of years.

Wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour, brought by a series of thunderstorms that swept through overnight, brought down trees, limbs and power lines throughout the Philadelphia area, Engel said.

At the peak of the service interruptions, 152,000 customers were without electricity.

The overnight disruption was one of the most extensive in recent memory, she said.

In July 2006, a storm dubbed "the Summer Slam of 2006" left about 500,000 customers without power.

While residents in the region cope without power, there will at least be some relief from the steamy weather over the last four days.

"It's going to be nice, real nice" through Friday, said meteorologist Jim Eberwine of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.

The front that led to flooding this week in the upper plains states swept the hot air mass out of the Philadelphia region last night.

Eberwine said to expect sunshine and highs in the mid-80s until Saturday, when showers and thunderstorms are likely to return.

Looking long-range, "we won't get back into that high heat right through about the 20th" of June, he said.

For the near future, the temperatures will average a "tad above normal" for this time of year, Eberwine said.

Because of the heat wave, temperatures were 6.8 degrees above normal for the first 10 days of this month, he said.