US northeast cleans up after storm for the record books

The nor'easter brought high winds and rain, downing power, toppling trees and cancelling schools.

    A house is trapped under a tree that toppled from strong winds [Nic Antaya/The Boston Globe via AP]
    A house is trapped under a tree that toppled from strong winds [Nic Antaya/The Boston Globe via AP]

    A record-breaking autumn storm plunged hundreds of thousands of people into the dark, toppled trees, cancelled schools and delayed trains in the northeast part of the United States, while persistent winds Thursday hampered efforts to clean up and restore power and clean up.

    The nor'easter brought high winds and rain to the region on Wednesday and Thursday. Winds gusted to as high as 144 kph (90 mph) on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where about 200,000 residents lost power.

    The storm also left nearly 200,000 people without power in Maine. Heavy rain combined with 96 kph (60 mph) wind gusts knocked down trees and power lines, advising residents to look for hazards on Thursday because many roads were unsafe, the agency said.

    In Portland, Maine, the atmospheric pressure at sea level - an indicator of the strength of a storm - was the lowest ever recorded in October, said William Watson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Maine.

    Nine boats were tossed ashore in Rockland, Maine, and a pier suffered some damage, said Sarah Flink, executive director of Cruise Maine.

    The nor'easter formed off New Jersey, strengthening as it travelled north. New York authorities said a wind-driven fire destroyed three houses in the Fire Island hamlet of Ocean Bay Park early Thursday. No injuries were reported.

    Train delays, power outages and school cancellations were reported throughout the region Thursday morning. Leaves and debris that littered roads created a slippery traffic hazard for commuters.

    Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Massachusetts, said the storm system met the definition of "bombogenesis."

    Storm intensity is measured by central pressure - the lower the pressure, the stronger it is. A storm is considered a "bomb" when the pressure drops rapidly.

    "That's why we ended up with strong, sustained winds and wind gusts," Buttrick said. "It's an indicator of an extremely powerful storm and not something to ignore."

    Buttrick forecast that the storm would continue travelling north and northeast, across the Maine coast through Thursday, reaching north of Nova Scotia by Friday morning.

    Most areas saw rainfall totals of 2.5-7.5cm (one to three inches), though some areas of southern New England got about 10cm (four inches).

    In New Hampshire, about 100 school districts reported closings and delays on Thursday morning due to no electricity or downed trees and powerlines. A wind gust of 206 kph (128 mph) was reported on Mount Washington, the northeast's highest peak, according to the National Weather Service.

    SOURCE: AP news agency