updated 7/15/2004 6:09:43 PM ET 2004-07-15T22:09:43

Communities across the Midwest and East Coast cleaned up Thursday after several days of storms and at least two tornadoes.

Residents of Campbelltown, Pa., began returning home Thursday under the watch of state police a day after storms damaged at least 50 houses and hurt two dozen people.

Utility crews and insurance adjusters started assessing the damage, and weather experts confirmed the thunderstorms had spawned a tornado in this south-central Pennsylvania town of 2,400.

Meteorologists said the winds measured up to 200 miles per hour at ground level and the twister might have been on the ground for as long as 10 to 15 minutes. The storm left a trail of destruction 7.5 miles long.

Ian Zimmerman, who works for a local building restoration company, was waiting for a trash receptacle to arrive as he stood outside a damaged home. “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said.

Melissa and Brian Bucciarelli, who moved into the development in December, had come back after Wednesday’s storms to find their house flattened but recovered a photo album from their honeymoon in Italy.

“You can’t even fathom what you do next,” said Melissa Bucciarelli.

Among the injured, one woman remained hospitalized in critical condition.

Birth of a tornado

At least 30 homes in the neighborhood were leveled or appeared uninhabitable, and at least 20 sustained some damage, said Daniel Kauffman, acting director of the Lebanon County Emergency Management Agency.

Tornado warnings had been posted, and funnel-cloud shaped formations were reported, but authorities couldn’t immediately confirm that a twister had formed.

Thirteen-year-old Christy Hetrick, who was home when the storm hit, said she heard “kind of like a screeching noise” and looked outside to see many trees knocked over. The storm lasted about an hour, she said.

“I had tears in my eyes because it was so horrible,” she said.

More New Jersey rain
About 100 miles to the east, meanwhile, about 200 residents of Lumberton, N.J., were also returning home Thursday after being evacuated because heavy flooding.

Video: N.J. storm damage The town and surrounding Burlington County, which stretches east from Philadelphia through the south-central part of the state, received an additional one-quarter to one-half inch of rain late Wednesday, following torrential rains Monday and Tuesday that burst a dozen small dams and forced more than 750 people from their homes.

A flood watch was posted until Thursday afternoon for Pemberton Township as authorities monitored a storm-battered dam on Rancocas Creek that was in danger of collapse.

In the Louisville, Ky. area, about half of the 115,000 homes and businesses that lost power in strong storms Wednesday were still without it Thursday morning, and some may not get it back until next week, Louisville Gas & Electric said.

At their peak, power outages numbered in the hundreds of thousands statewide as the straight-line winds, reaching sustained gusts of 80 mph, toppled trees and power lines. In Louisville, some officials said the outages were the worst since devastating tornadoes 30 years ago.

Severe storms since Monday
High wind and heavy rains have damaged hundreds of houses, stalled cars, breached small dams, downed power lines and closed roadways from spots in the Midwest all the way to the Eastern Seaboard in an onslaught of severe weather since Monday.

The storms wreaked havoc with airline schedules as well, delaying flights Wednesday to New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport by more than three hours. Other airports along the East Coast — in Baltimore, Washington, Boston, New York and Philadelphia — experienced delays up to an hour.

The National Weather Service said Clarks Mills, Wis., was hit by a tornado Tuesday afternoon with winds of at least 73 mph. Meteorologist Gary Austin said the tornado skipped along a path 4.5 miles long, damaging a dozen houses and farm buildings. There were no injuries.

Video: Weather havoc in U.S. As the storms passed through central Illinois, a tornado leveled a manufacturing plant Tuesday at Roanoke and roofs were blown off several houses.

Workers at Parsons Manufacturing plant in Roanoke, about 20 miles east of Peoria, went to storm shelters before the twister struck.

“The sound was so intense you had to hold your ears shut,” office worker Dave McClallen said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,