Severe storms brought destruction and tragedy across the Northeast on Tuesday evening, with one child dying at a Maryland summer camp and a tornado killing four people, including a 4-month-old baby, in an upstate New York town.
At about 7:15 p.m., a violent tornado — packing winds of about 100 mph — ripped through Smithfield, near Syracuse, New York, officials said. It destroyed four homes and damaged another three buildings, as well as a barn, Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley said at a news conference Wednesday after touring the aftermath.
Killed in the weather event were Kimberly Hillard, 35, and her 4-year-old daughter, Paris Newman; Virginia Warner, 70; and Arnie Allen, 53, whose home was lifted from its foundation. One of the homes was thrown about 150 yards, Riley said.
The last twister to hit Madison County was in 2009, according to the National Weather Service, and Tuesday's tornado could prove to be the deadliest ever in New York state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo described the scene of destruction in Smithfield as if "a bomb exploded."
"When there’s a loss of human life like in this situation, then nothing else matters," Cuomo said. "Houses we can replace. Buildings we can replace. When you lose a 4-month-old baby, there’s no damage like that."
Meteorologists said the tornado could be as high as an F2 on the Fujita scale, with winds at 113 mph to 157 mph, but they were continuing to assess the damage.
Damage was also widespread in the towns of Sullivan and Lenox in Madison County, New York, the sheriff’s office said.
In a separate incident in Maryland, around 100 children were in an outdoor pavilion at River Valley Ranch, a Christian camp north of Baltimore, when the storm hit. Organizers said they tried to get everyone to shelter but the high winds were upon them before all the children were safe — one of the nine children hurt died from their injuries.
"Our staff noticed a storm that was quickly approaching and immediately began moving the campers from the pavilion to the nearest secure building," said a post on the camp’s Facebook page. "The storm came upon them in a very quick and severe manner before all the children reached the building."
The storm knocked down trees in its path and the camp's executive director, Jon Bisset, confirmed "with a very heavy heart" that one child was killed.
The identities of the children were not released, but Lineboro Volunteer Fire Department told the Baltimore Sun that all the kids who were hurt were 13 or younger and have been taken to hospital for treatment.
The storm also brought power outages, with some 42,000 customers in the Baltimore region in the dark as of Tuesday night, the newspaper reported.
The storms were thrown up by a system not uncommon in the northeast for this time of year, said Guy Walton, lead forecaster at The Weather Channel. But save for a few showers, both New York and Maryland were expected to be out of the woods with much calmer weather forecast for Wednesday, he added.
Storms could still persist from Virginia to North Carolina throughout the day, although Walton said these are not expected to bring such severe winds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published July 8 2014, 10:34 PM