NEW YORK • Severe thunderstorms blasted the East Coast of the United States with gusts of wind up to 80kmh yesterday morning, knocking out power in thousands of homes and putting several states on flood watch, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
More than 54,000 homes and businesses were without power in Pennsylvania, according to tracking site PowerOutage.US, with 139,000 more outages reported across New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and New Jersey.
Heavy rain and flash flooding were forecast by the NWS for the north-east later yesterday.
"This is an ongoing threat," the centre's meteorologist Brian Hurley said. "There are short spin-ups, pockets of heavy rain and damaging winds that can still hit before this pushes off shore."
The storm system picked up strength in the southern US over the weekend, where it spurred tornadoes that killed at least five people, including three children, officials said.
The massive storm system sped from Texas eastward with dozens of twisters reported as touching down across the south from Texas through Georgia into Pennsylvania.
Nearly 2,300 US flights were cancelled by Sunday evening, more then 90 per cent of them at airports in Chicago, Houston, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Columbus and a dozen major airports on the Eastern Seaboard, according to FlightAware.com. The storm's cold front brought snow to Chicago on Sunday, with 2.5cm to 7.6cm reported in central Illinois.
Two children, siblings aged three and eight, were killed last Saturday when a tree fell on the car they were sitting in in Pollok, Texas, a spokesman for the Angelina County Sheriff's Department said.
A third child drowned late on Saturday when he fell into a drainage ditch filled with flash flood waters near Monroe, Louisiana, the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office said.
In Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant said one person was killed and 11 injured over the weekend as tornadoes ripped through 17 counties and left 26,000 homes and businesses without electricity.
The worst of the storms swept through New York at about 5am, with gusting winds capable of damaging trees and power lines expected to last until late yesterday, said NWS meteorologist Robert Oravec. Wind speed could hit 72kmh in Manhattan, the NWS added.
Soaking rains were expected yesterday to snarl the morning commute on the East Coast before the storm moves off to sea.