Residents Braced For Strong Thunderstorms

Residents in the northeastern United States braced Wednesday for strong thunderstorms that are rolling their way after spawning tornadoes in five states and causing two deaths.

The line of storms was moving through Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland.

"I think our main threat today might be some hail, but more damaging winds, not as many tornadoes," said meteorologist Dan McCarthy of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

The worst weather conditions on Wednesday could come during the evening commute, said CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider.

"With the heating of the day, we're expecting these storms to pick up, especially in areas like New York City and farther down towards Maryland and Virginia," Schneider said. "We could see wind gusts as high as 40 or 60 mph."

More than 8,000 customers were without electricity Wednesday in Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, officials said, a day after 35 tornadoes were reported in those states.

The worst damage was reported around the Kentucky town of Madisonville, about 50 miles south of Evansville, Indiana, where a tornado killed 22 people last week.

One death was reported in western Kentucky's Marshall County where a mobile home overturned and caught fire during Tuesday's tornados. Eight other people were reported injured, said Buddy Rogers with the state emergency management agency.

Police reported a second death in Hancock County, Indiana. A 17-year-old girl was killed about 9 p.m. when her car struck a patch of standing water and landed upside down in a drainage ditch, the county sheriff's office said.

In hard-hit Henry County, Tennessee, Mayor Brent Greer said the storm destroyed 21 homes. "We have confirmation that two tornadoes did go through the county yesterday," he said.

Thirteen people were treated at hospitals for storm-related injuries, the mayor said.

"There's no question, with the damage we had, had we not gotten some advanced warning out there, there would have been many more injuries," Greer said. "We're very fortunate."

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher was on the ground at daybreak Wednesday to assess damage in the state's worst-hit region, Rogers said. A representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was also on hand to determine whether storm victims qualified for federal aid, he said.

As many as 6,200 customers had no power in Kentucky, Rogers said.

Swath of destruction

The Madisonville tornado touched down around 4 p.m. about a mile south of downtown, cutting a swath of destruction east of downtown. Mayor Karen Cunningham said 20 or 30 buildings, most of them homes, were "severely damaged," and dozens of other homes and buildings sustained moderate damage.

At least 22 people were injured, three critically, Cunningham said.

Kathy Patterson with the Madisonville Police Department said the tornado sounded like a "train coming through."

"We've got gas leaks, trees down, power outages, houses destroyed," she said. "We've got some houses that were totally demolished."

Rogers said another 40 to 50 homes were heavily damaged in Earlington, just south of Madisonville. He said about 40 National Guard troops were assisting in efforts there.

The storm front comes just over a week after the deadly tornado that ripped through a mobile home park in Evansville. Maj. Rodney Buchanan of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department in Evansville said the area had bad weather Tuesday, but nothing "like last week."