Jun 24, 5:45 PM EDT

Power slowly being restored in storm-ravaged areas of PA, NJ


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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Utility crews were working around the clock to clear toppled trees and other debris as power was slowly being restored to the hundreds of thousands of people in the Northeast who were affected by a fast-moving ferocious storm system that caused two deaths.

The line of storms - which packed heavy rains, lightning and dangerous winds - also knocked down transmission lines and wires as it thundered through eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut on Tuesday night.

In Pennsylvania, PECO said about 121,000 homes and businesses remained without power late on Wednesday afternoon. In New Jersey, nearly 180,000 homes and businesses were without electricity around the same time.

Officials said full service might not be restored to some customers until the weekend. For others, it may even be longer.

Forecasters were trying to determine whether straight line winds or a tornado caused most of the damage. The National Weather Service said a 71 mph wind gust was recorded at Philadelphia International Airport.

The storm is responsible for at least two deaths.

A 15-year-old girl on a church camping trip was killed by trees knocked over in Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest.

In Maryland, Montgomery County Police said a 79-year-old man died Tuesday night after his pickup truck hit a downed tree in Beallsville after storms swept through.

Adrienne Johnson, who lives in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, said the damage to her block resembled the aftermath of a tornado. She was home when the storm hit around 6 p.m. Tuesday. She said some people ran to their basements.

"You could hear the thunder and once the thunder hit, you heard the trees snap, cracking," Johnson said. "It looks like a war-torn area."

The NWS is investigating whether a tornado formed in parts of Gloucester County. Officials did confirm a small tornado briefly touched down in Wrentham, Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border.

The PATCO Speedline between southern New Jersey and Philadelphia was not operating during Wednesday's rush because of power problems. But trains had started running again in limited service by Wednesday afternoon. Authorities said they expected normal service to resume on Thursday.

New Jersey Transit's Atlantic City rail line remained suspended later Wednesday, while the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority suspended service along some regional rail lines.

Verizon reported storm-related outages were restored by late Wednesday afternoon.

The strong storm system was the same that had spawned tornadoes in the Midwest, including at least nine in northern Illinois.

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Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak, Bob Lentz, Shawn Marsh and Christina Paciolla contributed to this report.

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