Storms cause damage around the New York area

July 27, 2012 2:22:57 PM PDT
The storms rolled through the New York area on Thursday night, claiming at least one life and leaving downed trees, fallen branches, and power outages in their wake.

The strongest part of the storm went through the Northern Suburbs where damaging winds bring down trees and causing major power outages. In the aftermath, approximately 20,000 were without power. Far fewer outages were reported in New York City and on Long Island. Most of the Con Ed and LIPA customers who lost power have had it restored.

The storms proved deadly in New York City. Authorities say a 61-year-old pedestrian was killed after lightning struck the rooftop of a church in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Police say the lighting brought down bricks onto some scaffolding, causing part of it to collapse on the man as he walked by.

The victim was taken to Long Island College Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after the 8 p.m. Thursday accident.

The victim was later identified as Assistant Attorney General Richard Schwartz. He served for over 25 years as as an expert antitrust lawyer in the Office of the Attorney General's economic justice division.

In Middle Island, Long Island, investigators are looking into whether a teenager was shocked when lightning passed over his home while he was playing video games. He was taken to the hospital, and he is expected to be okay.

Heavy thunderstorms carrying high winds and rain also smacked New Jersey Thursday night, causing power outages around the state. Overall in New Jersey, 25,770 customers experienced power outages.

While the threat of tornadoes did not come to pass in the New York City areas, one may have touched down in the city of Elmira in upstate New York. Power lines and trees were toppled and hospitals were placed on disaster alert but there were no reports of injuries, Chemung County Office of Fire and Emergency Management spokeswoman Karen Miner said.

A state of emergency and curfew were in effect until 8 a.m. in the city, with only emergency vehicles allowed on the streets while fallen trees and power lines were being cleared, Miner said. A shelter was set up at the Elmira Free Academy for residents who didn't want to stay in homes without power, she said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared an emergency for surrounding Chemung County to allow the state to mobilize state resources to assist local governments. "This state of emergency declaration will help the state get critical resources to communities that were hit the hardest," Cuomo said.

There were reports of isolated fires, and roofs torn off small structures, and people trapped in vehicles because of downed power lines."

About 16,000 utility customers in Chemung County were still without power early Friday.

"New York State Electric & Gas is working through the night ... to restore power and hopefully a lot of it will be on by tomorrow," Miner said. She said the main roads had been cleared, but that numerous side roads were "still impassable."


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