The winds that blew through lower Cape May County late Tuesday afternoon may not have been rotating.
But residents affected by the sudden severe storms can attest to the destructive power of intense straight-line winds.
The National Weather Service concluded a microburst, not a tornado, produced winds as strong as 80 mph over parts of Middle and Lower townships Tuesday. The cleanup continued Wednesday, as homeowners revved up chainsaws and generators, utility crews worked to restore power to thousands still without, and public works departments worked to clear hundreds of trees and branches from streets and sidewalks.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Atlantic City Electric spokesman Frank Tedesco said 5,800 Atlantic City Electric customers in Cape May County remained without power, down from a peak of 39,000 immediately after Tuesday’s storms.
Tedesco expected most of the remaining outages to be restored before midnight, with all customers having electricity by Thursday afternoon.
“We’re still assessing the cost of the damage to our infrastructure, and that may take a few weeks,” Tedesco said.
Dan Maloney was picking up his 19-month old daughter from day care in Lower Township at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday when the storm struck. A transformer exploded right in front of him.
Hurricane-force wind gusts pushed his three-ton F-350 Ford pickup truck, parked on the side of Town Bank Road as he waited for the storm to pass, he said.
When he tried to get to his Burleigh Road home in the Green Creek section of Middle Township, large trees had fallen across the road, making it impassable.
“Wow, this is bad,” Maloney said — at that point hoping his house was still intact.
It was, but 15 trees were uprooted by the intense winds. One clipped the corner of his house, causing what he estimated at thousands of dollars in damage.
Across the street from Maloney, Brad MacDonald huddled with his wife in an interior doorway of their Burleigh Road home during the peak of the storm.
“All we heard was a loud rumbling like a train, the windows rattled, and the whole house shook,” MacDonald recalled.
He had just opened his backyard pool for the summer. After the storm, his pool and deck lay crushed by a fallen tree.
After Cape May County was struck by 80-85 mile-per-hour winds on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesda…
It was a similar scene throughout much of southern Middle Township, Lower Township and the Wildwoods, the areas hit hardest by Tuesday’s storms.
National Weather Service meteorologists Mitchell Gaines and Lance Franck surveyed the destruction Wednesday along Burleigh Road, and determined it was caused by straight-line winds from a microburst.
Microbursts can create damage similar to that caused by some tornadoes, but without the tornado’s rotation.
Gaines estimated the winds to be as strong as 80 mph, and gusts of 80 to 85 mph were officially measured at weather stations in Cape May and on the Delaware Bay.
Much of the morning in Wildwood also was spent cleaning up after the violent storm ripped across the island Tuesday afternoon.
Residents and public works crews picked up tree limbs and debris on the street and in yards while Atlantic City Electric continued to work on downed power lines.
John Palesano, a 10-year full-time resident, was having a tree removed from his yard that was completely uprooted. He said the wind was so loud that he didn’t even hear the tree fall.
“I looked out the window and there it was,” he said.
Meanwhile, the roof of a Wildwood Public Works garage that stores beach maintenance equipment on Garfield Avenue was laid out on the ground Wednesday, completely intact, with the lights and air-conditioning units still attached, after it was blown off Tuesday.
Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the city is waiting for the insurance company to assess the damage to the building.
“We’re so used to cleaning up after big events — this one’s a bit more widespread, but we’ll get it done,” said Troiano, who said the city is all ready for another big summer weekend.
The Cape May County Office of Emergency Management said no injuries were reported from the storm.
Staff Writer John DeRosier contributed to this report.