NEW YORK >> A potent storm system that spawned tornadoes in the South reached the Northeast on Wednesday, where it knocked out power to thousands, closed the Statue of Liberty and delayed flights for hours. At least three people were killed.
Sandbags were handed out in Washington, D.C., to protect homes from flooding. Thousands were without electricity in the mid-Atlantic region and New York, and some schools delayed openings. The storms had moved into New England by early evening.
In Connecticut, the storm toppled trees and flooded streets near the shore. More than 20,000 customers lost power, according to Connecticut Light & Power.
Truck driver John Helwig, 59, said it was so windy as he passed through Bridgeport that traffic was only moving 40-50 mph on the open highway.
“It was pretty bad; the truck’s rocking back and forth,” he said at a gas station in Milford.
In New York, gusts of winds that snapped a huge, lighted Christmas tree at the South Street Seaport also prompted the closure of the Statue of Liberty. Flight delays of up to five hours were reported at LaGuardia Airport.
Commuter rail service between Newark, N.J., and New York City was briefly suspended due to overhead wire damage, New Jersey Transit said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the storm was responsible for the damage.
The rain was causing some discomfort in the city, where broken umbrellas peeked out from trash cans and many pedestrians were soaked.
“I’m about 45 percent drenched,” said Charles Hendricks, 33, passing out fliers in front of a Manhattan store. “My arms, my legs, my hat. But I still prefer a wet day over a cold day, especially in December.”
In New Jersey, a man was killed and his wife injured when a tree toppled and struck their car, West Milford police said.
Thousands in New Jersey were without power, as well as in upstate New York, where blowing snow caused treacherous driving conditions.
Hundreds of miles to the south, residents in Buford, Ga., were cleaning up after a tornado with winds as high as 130 mph whipped through Tuesday, damaging more than 50 homes, the National Weather Service said. No injuries were reported there.
As the storm hit, Tami O’Connor walked into her living room to tell her two children to go to the basement, and the room imploded, she said. No one was hurt, and though half of the room was sucked into her backyard, some of it was left intact.
“The baby Jesus is still on the mantel,” she said.
About 30 miles away, in an unincorporated area of suburban Atlanta, 54-year-old Matthew Mitchell died after a tree fell on the car he was driving Tuesday. Police believe strong wind gusts blew the tree over.
At least two tornadoes touched down in South Carolina on Tuesday, the National Weather service said. A tornado also hit Georgia on Tuesday and authorities were investigating whether one touched down in Louisiana on Monday.
In Tennessee, a rock slide followed 2 inches of rain, blocking part of a highway between Knoxville and its airport. Flooding closed roads in the Carolinas, which got up to 6 inches of rain in some areas. In Greenville County, S.C., 50-year-old Rita Hunter of Travelers Rest was killed Tuesday when she lost control of her car on a wet roadway and struck a tree.
Earlier, the storm brought suspected tornadoes to Louisiana and Mississippi, where more than a dozen people were injured. In Yazoo City, Miss., which was hit months ago by a severe tornado, 63-year-old Clarence Taylor said the town again looked like a war zone. The winds blew off a tarp he had put on his roof to cover damage from the April storm.
“This is the second time it dropped down on this street in just six months,” Taylor said. “I’ve been through it, man.”