Image: Wind in Jersey City, N.J.
Reena Rose Sibayan  /  AP
Strong wind blows across Sip Avenue on Journal Square in Jersey City, N.J., on Wednesday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 12/1/2010 9:43:13 PM ET 2010-12-02T02:43:13

A potent storm system that spawned tornadoes in the South reached the Northeast on Wednesday, where it knocked out power to thousands, closed the Statue of Liberty and delayed flights for hours. At least three people were killed.

Sandbags were handed out in Washington, D.C., to protect homes from flooding. Thousands were without electricity in the mid-Atlantic region and New York, and some schools delayed openings. The storms had moved into New England by early evening.

In Connecticut, the storm toppled trees and flooded streets near the shore. More than 20,000 customers lost power, according to Connecticut Light & Power.

The Federal Aviation Administration said numerous airports were experiencing delays Wednesday evening: Newark International, averaging 3 hours and 12 minutes; John F. Kennedy International, 3 hours and 56 minutes; La Guardia, 2 hours and 30 minutes.

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In New York, gusts of winds snapped a huge, lighted Christmas tree at the South Street Seaport. Ferry service to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island was halt about 2 p.m. EST because of high winds and surf, the National Park Service said.

The National Weather Service issued thunderstorm warnings for parts of New Jersey, New York City and suburban Long Island. High winds led authorities to briefly ban all trucks from using the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island.

West Virginia and western New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland were likely to see snow later in the day, according to The Weather Channel, with some places getting a more than a foot of snow by Thursday night.

Commuter rail service between Newark, N.J., and New York City was briefly suspended due to overhead wire damage, New Jersey Transit said.

Repairs were made by late afternoon, but residual delays and cancellations wreaked havoc on commuters.

Jonathan Betz, 33, a software programmer from Summit, N.J., works in Manhattan and usually takes the 8:02 p.m. train home from Penn Station.

But on Wednesday evening, it was canceled. "I looked down at the others and saw canceled, canceled, canceled," he said. "That's when I knew I was in trouble."

Story: Twisters twice: Town gets hit six months later

In New Jersey, a man was killed and his wife injured when a tree toppled and struck their car, West Milford police said.

Thousands in New Jersey were without power, as well as in upstate New York, where blowing snow caused treacherous driving conditions.

Image: Tornado damage in Buford, Ga.
David Goldman  /  AP
Ikram Towfik, of Ethiopia, walks downstairs after grabbing some belongings from her sister's bedroom on Wednesday, the day after a tornado tore the home in Buford, Ga.

Possible tornado
Hundreds of miles to the south, residents in Buford, Ga., were cleaning up after a tornado with winds as high as 130 mph whipped through Tuesday, damaging more than 50 homes, the National Weather Service said. No injuries were reported there.

As the storm hit, Tami O'Connor walked into her living room to tell her two children to go to the basement, and the room imploded, she said. No one was hurt, and though half of the room was sucked into her backyard, some of it was left intact.

Video: Deep freeze moves down East Coast (on this page)

"The baby Jesus is still on the mantel," she said.

About 30 miles away, in an unincorporated area of suburban Atlanta, 54-year-old Matthew Mitchell died after a tree fell on the car he was driving Tuesday. Police believe strong wind gusts blew the tree over.

At least two tornadoes touched down in South Carolina on Tuesday, the National Weather service said. A tornado also hit Georgia on Tuesday and authorities were investigating whether one touched down in Louisiana on Monday.  

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In Tennessee, a rock slide followed two inches of rain, blocking part of a highway between Knoxville and the airport. Flooding closed roads in the Carolinas, which saw up to six inches of rain in some areas. In Greenville County, S.C., 50-year-old Rita Hunter of Travelers Rest was killed Tuesday when she lost control of her car on a wet roadway, struck a tree and overturned.

Wet, wintry weather in Pennsylvania caused flooding and delayed school openings. More than 3 inches of rain had fallen in Pittsburgh since Tuesday morning, National Weather Service officials said, and the drenching forced the evacuation of dorms at the University of Pittsburgh satellite campus in Bradford near the New York state line. Classes were canceled.

Earlier, the storm brought suspected tornadoes to Louisiana and Mississippi, where more than a dozen people were injured. In Yazoo City, Miss., which was hit several months ago by a severe tornado, 63-year-old Clarence Taylor said the town again looked like a war zone. The winds blew off a tarp he had put on his roof to cover damage from the April storm.

"This is the second time it dropped down on this street in just six months," Taylor said. "I've been through it, man."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Deadly storm leaves massive mess

  1. Closed captioning of: Deadly storm leaves massive mess

    >> parts of the northeast are recovering from snow and heavy rain and dangerous winds last night. in new jersey with more on this story, ron, good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning to you, ann. if you look behind me, you can see a blue tarp on the roof of that house, where a tree came crashing into it yesterday. fortunately, no one was home at the time. in this region, wind gusts were clocked at 60 miles an hour, driving rain , a powerful storm that brought a real blast of winter. it's the first major snowfall of the season in western new york state. now a major snow warning through friday with 8-16 inches expected. snow is the latest acts of a storm that began by unleashing tornadoes in the southeast this week and more than 15 homes destroyed outside atlanta, georgia. a fast moving powerful storm blanketed the east coast with a strong wind and soaking rain, up to several inches in some areas. whipping up waves along the shore. causing severe flooding in pittsburgh and mudslides in north carolina that sent a house sliding more than 40 feet down a hill, knocking down a power transformer in a southern new jersey town. some residents evacuated to shelters. no power is expected back on until the end of the week. traveling anywhere, especially by air has been delayed and difficult. trains ground to a halt at new york penn station for several hours because of problems with overhead wires, backing up service north to boston. it's a storm that brought a harsh wintery mix, warnings of flash flooding , severe thunderstorms and dangerous gusty winds that today, fortunately for the northeast, is blowing away. the story now is the cold weather overnight temperatures dropped 25 degrees from 60 near freezing. that trend will continue. by next week, temperatures will be struggling to get out of the 30s. welcome to winter, ann.

    >> all right, ron. thanks for the warnings.

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