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Storm weakens, leaves some outages

A severe thunderstorm watch is in effect for

A severe thunderstorm watch is in effect for Long Island until 11 p.m., as a line of storms intensifying over upstate New York and central Pennsylvania Thursday afternoon headed east, forecasters said. The storms could hit as soon as 6 p.m. and could bring damaging winds, heavy rain and possibly large hail, according to the National Weather Service, which added, "an isolated tornado cannot be ruled out." Credit: National Weather Service

A severe thunderstorm cut power for thousands and disrupted some trains but departed Long Island on Thursday night without wreaking the type of havoc that had led concerned public officials to activate emergency operations.

Wind gusts in Farmingdale reached 30 mph, far from the 70 mph projected, and the brunt of high winds locally -- 56 mph -- seemed to have hit a buoy in the middle of the Long Island Sound, the National Weather Service said.

Only a quarter of an inch of rain fell in Farmingdale, far from the heavy soaking forecast, the service said.

Meteorologist Dan Hofmann said the Island got lucky: "Considering what it could have been . . . it was fortunate the storm weakened as it approached the Island."

But as thunderstorm warnings and watches were lifted here by 9 p.m., the number of customers without power continued growing -- almost 3,600 had no power at 9:36 p.m., according to the Long Island Power Authority's website.

The bulk of outages, about 2,800, were in Hempstead Town, the site said. The disruption started when a tree fell on power lines in Cedarhurst, said LIPA spokesman Mark Gross.

Also, about 1,700 customers in the Port Washington area were beginning to get power back at about 9:30 p.m., a service disruption unrelated to the storm, Gross said. That outage was caused by a tree that fell about 1:20 p.m., he said.

By about 11:30 p.m., power was back for all but 1,073 Long Islanders, LIPA said.

Traffic lights also lost power at several intersections on Route 109 in West Babylon, and police were directing traffic as a repair crew arrived.

In other damage, lightning may have hit a Middle Island house where a man, 18, reported feeling a shock, Suffolk police said. He was taken to the hospital as a precaution, police said.

Thursday night's line of storms had stretched across several states. Forecasters said quarter-size hail was possible, along with winds in excess of 70 mph in Nassau and 60 mph in Suffolk.

"These storms have a history of producing wind damage . . . and are not likely to weaken," the weather service said in a special weather statement. "Isolated tornadoes cannot be ruled out."

"Frequent and dangerous lightning strikes are expected with these storms. Torrential rain with rates between 1 and 2 inches per hour is likely."

That was enough for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Nassau and Suffolk officials to issue warnings to the public.

Nassau County activated its nonemergency hotline as of 6 p.m., while Suffolk activated its emergency operations center at 4 p.m.

To prepare for the storm, LIPA had extra crews out and hired local contractors to help in emergencies, Gross said.

"We brought in extra tree trimmers," he said, "and we've also brought in extra call center staff . . . for when customers call with power outages. We'll have workers working extended shifts around the clock to restore power."

Gross said 439 line personnel and 120 tree trimmers were at hand for emergencies. LIPA has requested another 450 workers from power companies and contractors off the Island but canceled that after assessing storm damage.

Long Islanders can report outages at 800-490-0075 or, Gross said. "You shouldn't assume we know about your outage," he said.

On the Long Island Rail Road, the weather caused signal problems for the 8:21 p.m. train from Oyster Bay to Jamaica. LIRR forecasted delays of up to 45 minutes.

LIPA canceled the 6:41 p.m. train from Hunterspoint Avenue to Oyster Bay at Locust Valley. The train, originally due at Oyster Bay at 7:56 p.m., had been delayed due to a tree across the tracks.

Some flights arriving at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports faced delays of at least an hour and a half and growing, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Some departures are also affected, and the FAA advises travelers to check with their airlines.

Showers and thunderstorms are possible Friday and Saturday before sunshine returns Sunday, the weather service said. Temperatures in the low-to-mid 80s are expected throughout, with overnight lows dipping into the 60s.

With John Valenti, Nicholas Spangler, Alison Barnwell and Scott Eidler

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