More than 20,000 customers were without power in Ocean County after a violent, fast-moving storm downed power lines and trees Friday night.
Brick and Lakewood were hit the hardest, with Jersey Central Power & Light reporting that between 5,000 to 10,000 customers were without electricity in each town by 9:30 p.m. The storm hit the area at about 7:30 p.m.
Ocean Medical Center in Brick lost electricity just before 8 p.m. and immediately went to a backup generator power, which was still running at 9:45 p.m., according to Rob Cavanaugh, a hospital spokesman. He said the emergency room was diverting incoming patients to other hospitals because the hospital was running on backup power.
Police Capt. John Rein said police got numerous calls for power outages, wires and trees down throughout Friday evening.
“The hardest hit area appears to be the Forge Pond area along Route 88-Route 70 which is adjacent to Ocean Medical Center,” Rein said.
There were no confirmed report of a tornado in either Ocean or Monmouth counties Friday night, despite at least one sighting of a funnel shaped cloud by two Brick residents.
Brick police received about 70 calls and 40 fire calls in about over three hours, including two working fires.
Straight-line winds with an estimated 70 to 80 miles per hour strength were to blame for damage, according to Lee Robertson, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.
Straight-line winds, also known as thunder gusts, are very strong winds that can produce damage, but not through a rotating action, he said.
“There’s significant damage being reported with downed trees and house damaged,” Robertson said. “We haven’t confirmed a tornado, but straight line winds can cause damage similar to a tornado.”
A Jackson resident said some neighbors hid in cellars because the winds were so strong.
“At about 7:30 p.m., everything was white. Neighbors have gutters and trees down. It was very scary with neighbors hiding in basements,” said Edith Klein of Piccadilly Drive in the Hampshire Hills Development.
Mike Hildebrandt of Brick said he and his brother Christopher were going to help their mother clean up the yard in Brick after the storm.
“We were looking in the sky and we couldn’t believe it. We saw what looked like a tornado, so my younger brother shot it with his iPhone and we got out of there,” said Hildebrandt. “I never saw anything like it. We saw it rotating and everything.”
He said the area near Brick Township High School on Chambers Bridge Road was extensively damaged by wind and was also flooded.
In Howell, an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 customers were without electricity as of 8:30 p.m., according to a JCP&L map of outages. Another 2,000 to 5,000 customers were without electricity in the Morganville area at 8:30 p.m., according to the map.
In Spring Lake Heights, the intersection of Old Mill Road and Warren Avenue was likely be closed for seven to eight hours after a car drove into a telephone pole there, police said. The reason for the collision is not yet known, but was not believed to be related to the storm, police said.
Howell police said they were swamped with calls related to power outages between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Cleanup was continuing in both Brick and Toms River on Friday night.
Power to the Birchwood Park neighborhood off Chambers Bridge Road in Brick was lost because of massive destruction to from the weather.
Fallen trees were all over the neighborhood, crushing cars, toppling power lines and falling on roofs.
One tree was blocking the entire roadway on Maplewood Drive; roads blocked everywhere in the neighborhood.
Police vehicles and fire trucks were stationed at the downed power lines prevention traffic or pedestrians from passing.
Jackson resident Bob Vary said the winds downed a large tree in his yard on Cook Road off County Line Road near the Shoprite.
“It started out with just a little rain and thunder, like any normal late afternoon summer storm. All of a sudden it started raining and blowing harder than I’ve ever seen it. We had almost zero visibility out the window, although we saw the top half of a large sycamore come down very near the house, fortunately falling parallel to the house,” Vary said.
“The worst of it was over in a matter of seconds. That was a little before 7. The backyard looks like a disaster area,” Vary said.
Jackson resident Scott Law said it looked like a tornado touched down in the area of his Summerhill Avenue residence.
“I believe we experienced a tornado touchdown during this evening’s storms. Some of my neighbors expierenced minor wind damage,” Law said. “My home on the other hand has several large trees uprooted, large tree broke in half and a fence destroyed. It seems that “something” touch downed in my yard and lifted back up.”