118,000 without power after storms roar through region

A lightning bolt streaks down in Center City during powerful storms Thursday, July 3, 2014. (Photo by Sophia Cassidy, 12, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who aptly described it as an "insane lightning bolt.")

About 118,000 homes and businesses are still without power after strong thunderstorms rolled through the region Thursday night, electric utilities reported.

As of 11:30 p.m., Peco reported that about 48,000 customers were without power in Chester County. More than 25,000 lacked power in Philadelphia, 17,000 in Montgomery County, 11,000 in Delaware County, and about 15,000 in Bucks County.

PSE&G reported scattered outages in South Jersey. The most extensive were in Pennsauken, where more than 3,000 customers were without power, and in Haddonfield, where more than 1,000 were affected.

Amtrak said it had fixed a signal outage between Philadelphia and Washington caused by the storms, but residual delays remained. Amtrak's signal problems also affected some SEPTA Regional Rail service Thursday night.

Although the storm is forecast to veer well away from the coast, meteorologists warned that Hurricane Arthur could affect the Philadelphia region well into the holiday weekend.

Flash-flood watches were in effect for the entire region through noon Friday, and the dangerous rip currents generated by the swirling tropical mass could persist even as the storm heads toward the Canadian Maritimes, said Kristin Kline at the National Weather Service.

"It could be a high risk for the entire holiday weekend," she said. "The water's still going to be churned."

A band of strong thunderstorms swept through the region Thursday evening. There were numerous reports of downed trees, some blocking lanes of traffic, others falling on buildings. At one point, Peco reported that more than 100,000 customers were without power.

More rain was expected Friday morning, when Vice President Biden is scheduled to speak at the July Fourth Celebration of Freedom ceremony at Independence Mall.

Weather won't be the only inconvenience visitors will have to contend with. Because of heightened security, people wishing to attend the ceremony should allow extra time to arrive and depart, authorities said. Both the general and ticketed public will have one entrance gate to use, at Fifth and Ranstead Streets, between Chestnut and Market Streets on the southeast side of Independence Mall. It will open at 8 a.m. and close two hours later.

Thursday evening, Arthur was approaching the North Carolina coast as a Category 1 hurricane with peak winds at 85 m.p.h. It became a Category 2 Thursday night, and its winds were expected to top 100 m.p.h. by Friday morning as it spins out over the ocean.

Typically, the first Atlantic hurricane doesn't show up until Aug. 10, according to the National Hurricane Center.

While Arthur wasn't having a direct impact on the region, in addition to stirring up riptides it was a factor in the heavy rains, meteorologists said.