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Powerful storm brings damaging wind, huge hail and pop-up tornadoes

NEW YORK — A powerful storm outbreak brought damaging wind and golf ball-sized hail to the tri-state Tuesday and spurred isolated tornadoes as a severe bout of weather slammed the area during the evening commute.

As of 7 p.m., all watches and warnings were canceled as the line of storms moved east.

Severe weather alerts

Tornado warnings, which are typically issued when a funnel is spotted in the clouds, were issued throughout the afternoon for portions of upstate New York and Connecticut.

The most recent tornado warning expired at 5:30 p.m. for Connecticut's New Haven and Middlesex counties, the National Weather Service said, warning residents at the time there to "TAKE COVER NOW!"

That warning means residents there should take action: seek shelter in a sturdy building or go to a basement or interior room away from windows, the National Weather Service said.

"Flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter," the agency said. "Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. Damage to roofs, windows, and vehicles will occur. Tree damage is likely."

A tornado warning expired at 4 p.m. for parts of Sullivan County, where powerful thunderstorms created quarter-sized hail.

At 5:30 p.m., the National Weather Service in Albany said tornado watches were canceled upstate as the "severe threat has moved out of the area."

Counties in northern Connecticut, western and central Massachusetts will remain under a tornado watch through 9 p.m.

A severe thunderstorm warning expired at 6:15 p.m. for New York City, Long Island and southeastern Connecticut where wind gusts up to 70 mph threatened to wreak havoc on trees and powerlines.

Queens and all of Long Island were under a flood advisory through 7 p.m.

In all, nearly 37 million people were under the severe weather watches and warnings, according to the National Weather Service.

Commutes snarled

The wicked weather made for a nightmare evening commute.

Metro-North suspended all service at about 5 p.m. and told riders to avoid Grand Central Terminal until they're told otherwise because of multiple downed trees and thunderstorms. The agency said all trains en route will be held at their stations until further notice.

By 6:20 p.m., the agency slowly began to resume service.

That Metro-North suspension also affected Amtrak service, which has been suspended between New York and New Haven.

New Jersey Transit train service was subject to delays into and out of New York due to weather-related issues, and buses out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal were also delayed.

New York City subway riders shared photos of packed platforms, especially those with trains heading into and out of Grand Central and Times Square.

What to expect and when

The storms swept through Tuesday afternoon and will cover New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut.

Two models being tracked by the PIX11 Weather Center differ on when the weather will move out and what areas will be hit hardest.

One model predicts lightning, hail and heavy rain lasting through about 8 p.m., with the highest chance of a tornado forming in central New Jersey.

The other model calls for a more widespread area of severe weather, with the most powerful version of the storm covering the five boroughs, New Jersey, Connecticut and Long Island. That model anticipates the storm lasting through about 10 p.m.

Southern and coastal New Jersey are under a flash flood watch until 2 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Showers could continue overnight, even after the thunderstorms have moved away, the agency said. Up to an inch of precipitation is expected to fall in much of the area, with locally higher amounts possible.

Huge temperature swing

An approaching cold front will set in motion this sudden, unsettled shift from summery day to stormy night.

The mercury is expected to rise to nearly 90 degrees during the day Tuesday — about 10 to 15 degrees above normal — but when cold air moves in from the west, that’ll all change.

Expect the temperatures to get knocked down about 20 degrees over four hours.

Tornado safety

It’s out of the ordinary but not impossible for a tornado to form in New York City, Long Island or Connecticut. The last time a tornado formed in Manhattan was Aug. 31, 1995, but tornadoes have struck elsewhere in the region — Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx  were hit with twisters in 2010.

Tuesday’s storm could create the right conditions for isolated twisters to pop up.

If a tornado forms in your area, follow these instructions to protect yourself and your family:

  • Take cover in the basement.
  • If there’s no basement, move to an interior room on the lowest level of the building or home.
  • If those options aren’t available, take cover in a bathroom or in a bathtub.
  • Stay away from windows