Thunderstorms packing roaring winds and torrential rains slammed the region late Thursday, damaging homes, stranding residents, and knocking out power to thousands.
Hardest hit were Ambler and Horsham in Montgomery County and Thornbury Township in Delaware County where the National Weather Service confirmed an EF2 tornado packing winds with speeds up to 135 miles per hour devastated a neighborhood.
Over 42,000 electric customers in Montgomery County lost power and several major roads were closed due to fallen trees or other damage, according to the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety.
Strong winds toppled trees into houses, trapping individuals in both Horsham Township and Ambler Borough, according to the county, and at least four persons were taken to local hospitals for treatment of injuries related to the storms.
Hatboro-Horsham's School District closed schools on Friday due to widespread power outages and road closures, and the township said its municipal building and library were without power and closed for several hours Friday morning.
Montgomery County's Urban Search and Rescue Team assisted Ambler's Wissahickon Fire Company with extrication of two victims, according to the county. The county's Emergency Communications Center received a total of 768 calls for help in one hour, from 11:45 p.m. Thursday to 12:45 a.m. Friday, a time when the department typically receives less than 100 calls.
As of noon Friday, roughly 23,000 customers were still without power in Montgomery County, and municipalities with outages included Upper Dublin, Springfield, Horsham, Upper Moreland, Whitemarsh, Upper Merion, Lower Merion, and Whitpain.
In Delaware County, more than a dozen homes on Chelsea Lane in the Cobblestones at Thornbury develpment were severely damaged, and about a dozen others suffered damage.
Miraculously, no serious injuries were reported.
At a Friday morning press conference, Thornbury Commissioners Chairman Jim Raith said there was no doubt in his mind that a tornado struck the area.
"What you are seeing behind me is devastation," Raith said.
Raith said despite the fury of the storm and widespread damage, all affected families were safe after being quickly moved to shelter by 1 a.m. after the storm rolled in shortly after 11 p.m.
Delaware County Council Chairman John McBlain said the county declared a state of emergency in the area where the storm hit.
Officials from the National Weather Service in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Friday morning confirmed the EF2 tornado was tucked into straight-line winds that slammed the region.
"We were just going to bed, it was about 11:30, you could feel the pressure dropping and doors started blowing open," said Rick Letherberry, of Thornbury. "We just kind of hunkered down in the basement until the winds stopped, then came up and assessed the damage. Put the boards up to keep it as water tight as possible, then went to bed. That's all we could do."
Dorinda Shank spoke to MediaNews Group Friday in front of her damaged house on Chelsea home. "Lost the power, got the emergency warning, I actually grabbed the phone, we heard the big crash," said Shank. "We didn't know, we're up in this bedroom, when the smoke alarm was going off so we were concerned the house was on fire. We realized that water was pouring through the smoke alarm. My husband, David, ran down to get a bucket in the garage. That is when we realized the whole front of the house had been blown off."