By Brenda Flanagan
The storm line plowed across South Jersey to the coast, blasting through Brant Beach with enough force to shatter plate glass. It was caught on home video.
But it blew in even harder from the west — 75 mile per hour gusts ripping up trees and tearing out power lines in Marlton.
“I never seen anything like it. Never seen anything like it,” said Joe Scafidi.
Scafidi watched the wind careen through his Washington Township, Gloucester County neighborhood and send one massive maple slicing in an arc right through his neighbor’s house. Nobody was home there, fortunately.
“Real loud noise, kind of like a big truck or something going down the road, and it just came on an angle — right from there and came right across — and that tree just went. That’s when we went down into my basement,” Scafidi said.
“I was outside when the wind first hit and it was hard to walk, it was blowing so hard. I said, ‘Come on, let’s go downstairs. We don’t know what’s coming here,’” said Bill Hudden . When asked if he thought it could have been a tornado, he said, “Yes. Yes, absolutely. It was worse than Sandy, when Sandy came through here.”
It blew hard enough to snap trees in half. The winds toppled thousands of others, but National Weather Service investigators say debris in Gloucester did not show the telltale circular damage left by tornadoes. But some certainly believed they’d seen one.
“It was scary,” said Gina Papanier.
Papanier drove through the storm at its height, trying to get home.
“It was like a tornado. Trees flying, signs flying all over. It was a mess,” she said. When asked what she thought was going to happen, she said, “I had no idea. I just wanted to get home.”
At many intersections across Gloucester County, traffic lights stayed dark all day today, forcing motorists to feel their way through.
Gusts upended cars in the Deptford Mall parking lot where a pile of debris and more downed trees kept workers busy. The mall reopened this morning, but power outages kept hundreds of other businesses closed.
“This was the first time I ever seen a storm this bad hit this area right here,” said Darren Chorzelewski .
At its peak, the storm knocked out power to more than a quarter million customers from Atlantic City Electric, 130,000 from PSE&G and 15,000 from JCP&L — for a total of 425,000. JCP&L sent its trucks to assist other utilities after restoring all its own customers.
“We kind of pull together. We all help each other out around here. So it’s a good community,” Chorzelewski said.
Power’s not the only utility that’s out. There’s no cell phone service, meaning no text messages, no emails — a blanket blackout. No way to check on when your power might be restored.