By SARAH BRUMFIELD
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Crews across the eastern U.S. worked Tuesday to clear downed trees and powerlines and restore electricity following severe storms that killed at least two people, cut power to more than a million customers at their peak, and forced thousands of flight delays and cancellations.
The storms that pounded a swath of the country stretching from Alabama and Tennessee to the Carolinas and New York on Monday continued to lash northern New England with wind and rain a day later.
The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down in the Atlantic Coast town of Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, though a survey team was still determining its strength. And flash flood warnings were issued in Maine, where storms dumped 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 centimeters) an an area stretching from New Gloucester to Lewiston-Auburn, said weather service meteorologist Sarah Thunberg. A marine warning mentioned gusts topping 51 mph, dangerous surf and possible waterspouts off the southern Maine coast.
Monday’s storms spawned tornado watches and warnings in 10 states, with around 30 million people under a tornado watch in the afternoon. Forecasters received more than 900 reports of wind damage, including nearly 300 from North Carolina and South Carolina, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
A preliminary assessment of damage in Knoxville, Tennessee, found that an EF-2 tornado touched down Monday, with winds up to 130 mph (209 kph) and a path as wide as 200 yards (183 meters), said the weather service’s office in Morristown, Tennessee.
An EF-0 tornado with peak winds of 85 mph (137 kph) uprooted trees and damaged the outside of buildings near Lake Norman, North Carolina, when it touched down Monday, the weather service’s office in Greenville-Spartanburg confirmed.
In Westminster, Maryland, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Baltimore, dozens of vehicles were trapped amid a string of power lines that fell like dominoes onto a highway. No injuries were reported. Utility crews turned off the electricity to the power lines, and the 33 adults and 14 children in the vehicles were able to get out safely, Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Roland Butler said at a news conference Tuesday.
Nick Alexopulos, a spokesperson for Maryland’s largest power utility, BGE, called the destruction “catastrophic.”
“This is damage that if you worked in electric distribution at BGE for your entire career, you may see it once,” Alexopulos said at a news conference.
First responders and others worked as a team and saved lives Monday night, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.
“There were people who were stuck and stranded in cars who were able to sleep in their own beds last night,” the governor said.
More than 1.1 million customers were without power Monday evening across Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia, according to poweroutage.us.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the number of customers without power had dropped to about 200,000 in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia and Tennessee.
Damage was extensive across the Knoxville Utilities Board’s service area, and while power was restored to many customers, thousands were still without it on Tuesday morning, board spokesperson Gerald Witt said.
“We’ve made substantial progress,” Witt said. “But there’s still widespread and severe damage that remains and work is expected to take multiple days.”
By Monday night, more than 2,600 U.S. flights had been canceled and nearly 7,900 had been delayed, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. The trouble continued Tuesday with hundreds of delays and dozens of cancellations. The Federal Aviation Administration, which rerouted planes around storms on Monday, warned Tuesday that low clouds and wind could affect airports in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and San Francisco, and that thunderstorms could cause delays in Boston, Atlanta, Florida and Chicago.
At least two deaths have been blamed on the storms.
In Anderson, South Carolina, a large tree was uprooted and fell on a 15-year-old boy Monday, according to the Anderson County Office of the Coroner. The high school sophomore’s death was classified as resulting from a severe weather event, officials said.
In Florence, Alabama, a 28-year-old worker in the parking lot of an industrial park was struck by lightning Monday and died, police said in a social media post.
Associated Press writers Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Julie Walker in New York; Mark Pratt in Boston; and David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.