Downpours, high winds buffet the region

A drenching storm with high winds swept through the region yesterday, flooding roads, downing trees and wires, delaying air travel, and forcing a high school's evacuation.

After winds were blamed for overturning one tractor-trailer on the Walt Whitman Bridge yesterday morning, the units were banned on several spans.

Gusts hit 62 m.p.h. about 9:30 a.m. at Philadelphia International Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

When tiles and insulation blew off a roof at Washington Township High School in Gloucester County and water started pouring in about 11:30 a.m., the fire marshal ordered students and staff out of the building.

Repairs were expected to go on overnight in the hope of reopening this morning.

By early afternoon, as the storm was softening into gentle rain, 2 inches had fallen in Delaware County and 2.25 inches in Bucks County, according to meteorologist Jim Eberwine of the National Weather Service's Mount Holly office.

Columbus Boulevard at Spring Garden Street and Camden's Admiral Wilson Boulevard were among roads closed by high water.

By midafternoon, about 70,000 Peco customers had lost power at some point, spokesman Ben Armstrong said.

Lower Merion, Concordville, Middletown Township, Upper and Lower Makefield, and South Philadelphia had some of the biggest outages, he said.

Gloucester County College in Deptford canceled day and evening classes because of a power outage. Public Service Electric & Gas reported that thousands of customers lost power in South Jersey.

Among Traffic.com's alerts for motorists: downed trees in Lower Merion, Plymouth Township, and Willistown; downed poles in Upper Providence, Schwenksville, and Edgewater Park; and downed wires in Bensalem, Upper Chichester, and Northampton.

Dozens of arriving flights at the airport were delayed more than an hour, partly because of conditions in other cities.

Many departing flights were also delayed.

After the tractor-trailer accident closed lanes on the Walt Whitman, the Delaware River Port Authority banned trucks on that structure as well as the Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross Bridges.

Also, the New Jersey Turnpike banned motorcycles and towed trailers in South Jersey.

As disruptive as the storm was, it could have been worse.

Threatened thunderstorms did not materialize around Philadelphia, although some cells did appear in Cecil County, Md., and Cape May County, N.J., Eberwine said.

Temperatures were unseasonably warm, reaching 61 shortly before 1 p.m., though short of the record high of 66, set in 1967.

The region should be in the clear for a couple of days - precipitation-free, with highs in the 40s and lows in the upper 20s.

Some snow and rain could make a mess of Thursday morning, though, followed by a Friday-evening storm expected to track up the Jersey coast.

Temperatures should be lower, so that system could bring snow to the Philadelphia area if it ventures farther west, Eberwine said.

For more on the forecast, go to http://go.philly.com/weather

 


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Jan Hefler contributed to this article.