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East Coast wakes up to power cuts after storms kill five

East Coast storms kill five and cut power to thousands. (Reuters.com)
East Coast storms kill five and cut power to thousands. (Reuters.com)

By Matthew Liptak

SYRACUSE N.Y. (Reuters) - Thousands of people in U.S. East Coast states woke up to power cuts and a major clean-up operation on Wednesday after severe storms and high winds killed five people.

One of the hardest hit spots was the Syracuse-area community of Smithfield, New York, where four of the deaths were reported and at least four homes destroyed on Tuesday, Madison County Undersheriff John Ball said in a statement.

In Maryland, one boy was killed and eight others, aged 15 and under, were injured when they tried to shelter from tree branches and other debris being whipped around by the wind.

The storms uprooted trees and tore down power lines across several counties in central New York, as the extreme weather raged from the Ohio Valley and parts of New England through the mid-Atlantic region, police and weather officials said.

Roughly 174,000 people were without power in the Philadelphia region, Pennsylvania utility PECO spokeswoman Jackie Thompson said.

CNN reported nearly 500,000 homes and businesses without power on Tuesday, mostly in Pennsylvania and New York state.

Mark Pellerito, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Binghamton, New York, told Reuters the storms in and around Madison County "exhibited a lot of rotation", and tornado warnings were issued during the evening.

Four people were killed from three collapsed homes and two other homes were destroyed in Madison County, the National Weather Service office in Binghamton said. The storms had dissipated by Wednesday morning, it said.

Pellerito said ground teams would have to examine the area on Wednesday to determine conclusively whether property damage was caused by high winds or twisters.

The severe weather had started on Tuesday afternoon in northeastern Ohio, where relatively weak twisters were reported before the storms spread eastward along a cold front and gathered strength, he said.

(Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson from Seattle; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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