By CLARKE CANFIELD
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Damaging winds knocked down trees and utility wires in parts of northern New England on Sunday, flights were delayed in New York City and there were reports of a tornado in South Carolina as the East Coast braced for the remnants of violent weather that claimed 10 lives in Oklahoma.
Heavy rain, thunderstorms, high winds and hail moved through sections of the Northeast on Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm warnings and watches across Vermont, New Hampshire and most of Maine.
In northwestern South Carolina, authorities checked unconfirmed reports of a tornado, said Jessica Ashley, a shift supervisor for Anderson County’s 911 center. The fire department responded to a report of roof damage to a home and callers said trees were blown over. No injuries were reported.
The weather service said thunderstorms and winds in excess of 60 mph in Vermont produced 1-inch-diameter hail and knocked down numerous trees and wires. In northern Maine, radar picked up a line of thunderstorms capable of producing quarter-sized hail and winds stronger than 70 mph. Forecasters warned of tornadoes.
The prediction for stormy weather in the New York City region produced delays at major airports. John F. Kennedy International Airport had delays of about two hours on departing flights, while La Guardia Airport was delayed nearly three hours, and Newark Liberty Airport was delayed more than three hours on arriving flights to New Jersey.
In the southern part of the United States, thunderstorms, high winds and hail were expected as part of a slow-moving cold front. Heavy rains could spawn flash flooding in some areas, the weather service said.
Meanwhile, residents in Oklahoma cleaned up after the storms there killed 10 people, including three veteran storm chasers. Tim Samaras; his son, Paul Samaras; and Carl Young were killed Friday. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the men were involved in tornado research.
Jim Samaras told The Associated Press on Sunday that his brother Tim was motivated by science.
“He looked at tornadoes not for the spotlight of TV but for the scientific aspect,” Jim Samaras said. “At the end of the day, he wanted to save lives and he gave the ultimate sacrifice for that.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin toured damage in El Reno, about 30 miles from Oklahoma City. She said the death toll could rise as emergency workers continue searching flooded areas for missing residents.
The state Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman Amy Elliott said the death toll had risen to 10 from Friday’s EF3 tornado, which charged down a clogged Interstate 40 in the western suburbs. Among the dead were two children – an infant sucked out of the car with its mother and a 4-year-old boy who along with his family had sought shelter in a drainage ditch.
In Missouri, areas west of St. Louis received significant damage from an EF3 tornado Friday that packed estimated winds of 150 mph. In St. Charles County, at least 71 homes were heavily damaged and 100 had slight to moderate damage, county spokeswoman Colene McEntee said.
Northeast of St. Louis, the town of Roxana, Ill., also saw damage from an EF3 tornado. Weather service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said it wasn’t clear whether the damage in Missouri and Illinois came from the same twister or separate ones.
Five tornadoes struck the Oklahoma City metro area on Friday, the weather service said. Fallin said Sunday that 115 people were injured.
The storms formed out on the prairie west of Oklahoma City, giving residents plenty of advance notice. When told to seek shelter, many ventured out and snarled traffic across the metro area – perhaps remembering when a tornado hit Moore on May 20 and killed 24 people.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said roadways quickly became congested with the convergence of rush-hour traffic and fleeing residents.
“They had no place to go, and that’s always a bad thing. They were essentially targets just waiting for a tornado to touch down,” Randolph said. “I’m not sure why people do that sort of stuff, but it is very dangerous.”
Associated Press writers Thomas Peipert in Denver, Jim Suhr in St. Louis and Sean Murphy in El Reno, Okla., contributed to this report.
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