published Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Damaging storms moving through east, south

A police officer offers directions to a driver leaving this heavily damaged supply yard for Cactus Drilling Company on State Highway 66 in El Reno, Okla. on Saturday, June 1, 2013. Employee David Stottemyre was working in the lot when the tornado took aim at the plant. Stottemyre ran inside the large supply storage building and took shelter as the tornado passed over, leaving the building in a twisted pile of steel and metal. He was not injured. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel)
A police officer offers directions to a driver leaving this heavily damaged supply yard for Cactus Drilling Company on State Highway 66 in El Reno, Okla. on Saturday, June 1, 2013. Employee David Stottemyre was working in the lot when the tornado took aim at the plant. Stottemyre ran inside the large supply storage building and took shelter as the tornado passed over, leaving the building in a twisted pile of steel and metal. He was not injured. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PORTLAND, Maine — Damaging winds flattened trees and utility poles and knocked out power in parts of northern New England on Sunday, flights were delayed in New York City and a tornado touched down in South Carolina as the East Coast weathered the remnants of violent storms that claimed 13 lives in Oklahoma.

Heavy rain, thunderstorms, high winds and hail moved through sections of the Northeast on Sunday afternoon, leaving 30,000 in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine still without power late that night. The National Weather Service issued a rare tornado warning as a line of thunderstorms raced through New Hampshire into western Maine. The weather service said a tornado warning was issued as radar indicated a possible tornado moving from Kingfield, Maine, to Bingham, Maine. The tornado was not immediately confirmed.

In northwestern South Carolina, a tornado knocked a home off its foundation and blew part of the roof off, said Taylor Jones, director of emergency management for Anderson County. Some trees were blown down and there was heavy rain, but no widespread damage. No injuries were reported.

“It was an isolated incident,” Jones said.

The weather service said thunderstorms and winds in excess of 60 mph in Vermont produced 1-inch-diameter hail and knocked down numerous trees and wires. In northern Maine, radar picked up a line of thunderstorms capable of producing quarter-sized hail and winds stronger than 70 mph. Forecasters warned of tornadoes.

The stormy weather in the New York City region shortened the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game to 5 1/2 innings and produced backups at major airports. But by early Monday, delays that had been up to three hours had eased to 15 minutes or less at airports on the East Coast, including John F. Kennedy International, La Guardia Airport, Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey, Logan International Airport in Boston and Washington National Airport outside Washington.

Patrick Herb, 34, was traveling from Dulles with his 1- and 3-year-old to his home in Wisconsin, and had his departure time for a connecting flight in Detroit moved back three times. He described the mood at Dulles as “frustration and fatigue.”

“The communication is honestly one of the most frustrating parts of travel,” Herb said. “I’m sort of pessimistic it will get off on time.”

In other parts of the South, thunderstorms, high winds and hail rolled through as part of a slow-moving cold front. Heavy rains could spawn flash flooding in some areas, the weather service said.

In Texas, the Coast Guard said its crews saved or helped rescue 17 people caught in storms along the Gulf Coast. Lt. Matthew J. Walter of Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston cited “the devastating effects of strong winds and heavy rains” as the reason for three separate boats capsizing.

Meanwhile, residents in Oklahoma cleaned up after the storms there killed 13 people, including three veteran storm chasers. Tim Samaras; his son, Paul Samaras; and Carl Young were killed Friday. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the men were involved in tornado research.

Jim Samaras told The Associated Press on Sunday that his brother Tim was motivated by science.

“He looked at tornadoes not for the spotlight of TV but for the scientific aspect,” Jim Samaras said. “At the end of the day, he wanted to save lives and he gave the ultimate sacrifice for that.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin toured damage in El Reno, about 30 miles from Oklahoma City. She said the death toll could rise as emergency workers continue searching flooded areas for missing residents.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman Amy Elliott said the death toll had risen to 13 from Friday’s EF3 tornado, which charged down a clogged Interstate 40 in the western suburbs. Among the dead were two children — an infant sucked out of the car with its mother and a 4-year-old boy who along with his family had sought shelter in a drainage ditch.

In Missouri, areas west of St. Louis received significant damage from an EF3 tornado Friday that packed estimated winds of 150 mph. In St. Charles County, at least 71 homes were heavily damaged and 100 had slight to moderate damage, county spokeswoman Colene McEntee said.

Northeast of St. Louis, the town of Roxana, Ill., also saw damage from an EF3 tornado. Weather service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said it wasn’t clear whether the damage in Missouri and Illinois came from the same twister or separate ones.

Five tornadoes struck the Oklahoma City metro area on Friday, the weather service said. Fallin said Sunday that 115 people were injured.

The storms formed out on the prairie west of Oklahoma City, giving residents plenty of advance notice. When told to seek shelter, many ventured out and snarled traffic across the metro area — perhaps remembering when a tornado hit Moore on May 20 and killed 24 people.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said roadways quickly became congested with the convergence of rush-hour traffic and fleeing residents.

“They had no place to go, and that’s always a bad thing. They were essentially targets just waiting for a tornado to touch down,” Randolph said. “I’m not sure why people do that sort of stuff, but it is very dangerous.”

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