Tropical Storm Isaias whips through New Jersey, taking trees and power along for the ride

A fast-moving storm that swept up the East Coast, bringing drenching rains, high winds and a tornado to New Jersey, left more than 1 million statewide without power late Tuesday as utility crews scrambled to get the lights on and remove fallen trees that blocked roads and pulled down wires.

The storm, named Isaias [ee-sa-ee-us], transitioned from a hurricane to a tropical storm after making landfall in North Carolina on Monday. 

Fueled by warm ocean waters, the storm got a late burst of strength as a rejuvenated hurricane with top sustained winds of 85 mph before coming ashore late Monday near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.

It had killed six by late afternoon Tuesday, decimating a North Carolina trailer park where two died and toppling trees in Maryland and New York, each instance involving a person being crushed in a vehicle. Before reaching the mainland, the storm had killed two in the Caribbean.

More than 2.8 million customers lost electricity across multiple states, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.

There was little hope of the storm weakening as it continued toward New England late Tuesday.

“We don’t think there is going to be a whole lot of weakening. We still think there’s going to be very strong and gusty winds that will affect much of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast over the next day or two,” hurricane specialist Robbie Berg told the Associated Press.

In New Jersey, a tornado was confirmed in Barnegat on Tuesday morning as Isaias spawned powerful thunderstorms while it swept over the Atlantic coastline. Inland, wind gusts were recorded in excess of 60 mph, bringing down trees and power lines.

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As Isaias moved north at 40 mph, it took a more westerly track, riding up along the Delaware River. That brought more rain to the west and, in turn, created more wind to the east, with sustained top winds of 65 mph.

“This put Pennsylvania and western New Jersey on the wet side of the storm, and eastern New Jersey on the windy side,” said Bob Ziff of the New Jersey Weather Observers. 

Jersey Central Power and Light was reporting nearly 700,000 customers without power statewide, with the hardest hit being in Morris, Ocean and Monmouth counties, which accounted for nearly 500,000 outages as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

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Essex County had 85,048 customers without power as outages surged, but that number dropped to 78,897 by nightfall. Bergen County had 102,392 outages at its worst, but dropped to 99,733. Passaic County had 45,007 at its worst, but fell slightly to 44,935. Morris County had 130,851, but power returned to a some over a few hours, leaving their number outages at 126,791.

The utility companies said they had crews working throughout the storm and into the night to return power. Crews from other states were also dispatched to New Jersey to help with the effort. Still, many customers are likely to be without power when they wake up Wednesday morning.

The storm was equal-opportunity in its destruction, hitting all parts of North Jersey. A sampling:

  • Due to downed trees and wires, Skyline Drive was closed south of Conklintown Road in Ringwood.
  • Macopin Road in Bloomingdale was closed, also due to downed trees and wires.
  • In Hackensack, fallen trees and wires started a house fire at Herman Street and Catalpa Avenue.
  • A ramp on Route 23 in Wayne closed because of a large sign that fell in the road.
  • A fallen tree shut down Tenafly Road in Englewood.
  • In Clifton, wires and utility poles came down across a stretch of Route 46, causing the closure of all eastbound lanes near Paulison Avenue.

Ziff and his band of weather junkies measured winds as high as 67 mph as Isaias roared through New Jersey in just a few hours. The western part of the state got the rain, the eastern part the wind:

  • Ramsey: 1.55 inches, 44 mph
  • Hawthorne: 2.04 inches
  • Haworth: 1.34 inches, 48 mph
  • Elizabeth: 1.29 inches, 67 mph
  • High Point State Park:  3.46 inches, 41 mph
  • Cedar Grove: 1.77 inches
  • Hillsborough: 2.32 inches, 61 mph
  • Somerset: 1.67 inches, 42 mph

Still, road flooding occurred in many low-lying areas, such as Carlstadt and Hoboken, because of the volume of rain that fell in a short period of time.

Trees came down in Nutley, Oradell, Denville, Jersey City, Ridgewood, Morristown, Caldwell, Wayne, Woodland Park, Teaneck, Pompton Plains, Hackensack, Paramus, Clifton, Boonton, Montclair and many other communities across North Jersey.

This article contains material from The Associated Press.