Thousands of New Jerseyans are still without power as the cleanup of  widespread damage is underway after a fierce line of thunderstorms moved quickly through South Jersey late Tuesday afternoon.

Camden County DPW crews working on clearing and chipping old growth trees that fell last night on Rt. 561 in Cherry Hill. (Camden County DPW)

As crews work clearing away fallen branches and trees, Atlantic City Electric says some customers may not get power back until the weekend.

As of 6:45 p.m. 163,000 ACE customers are still without power with Camden and Gloucester counties continue to be the hardest hit according to the utility's outage map.

Susan Coan, Atlantic City Electric region vice president said in a statement, “Atlantic City Electric expects to restore service to all of its customers by midnight Sunday. However, we expect that the vast majority of customers will get their lights back on before midday Saturday.

ACE Media Relations Manager Frank Tedesco  reports 20 main transmission lines  in the western end of their service area, each of which serves thousands of customers,were affected by the storm along with 5 sub-stations. 370 wires across the ACE service area have been brought down and helicopters are being used to spot trouble spots.

Trees must be removed from wires before restoration can take place says Arlene Lendel Jones, Regional Communications Director for ACE, and identified Camden and Gloucester counties were the most affected by the storm.

100 crews are coming in from out of the area including JCP+L crews to assist with restoration which Jones is expecting to be a multi-day operation.

A tree uprooted in Hammonton by the severe thunderstorm (Photo by Mike Tait on http://twitter.com/theWeatherboy)

Tedesco explains that as service is restored some customers may have to be shut off which is why the number of outages has climbed. Over 100,00 ACE customers have their power back following the storm. Jones said 280,000 were without power at the height of the storm, a number which is more than the utility's outages during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

PSE&G reports 30.000 customers still have no electricity as of 3 p.m. mostly in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties. The hardest hit towns, according to PSE&G, are Mount Laurel, Medford, Medford Lakes, Cherry Hill and Maple Shade which says damaged substations in Maple Shade, Soouuthampton, Medford and Collingswood all back in service after strong wind gusts downed feeding lines.

JCP+L crews head to South Jersey to assist Atlantic City Electric with power restoration. (JCP+L)

Crews from North and Central Jersey have arrived to assist with restoration.

"PSE&G has additional crews on hand to make repairs and restore customers as quickly as possible," the utility said in an email In a tweet the company reported "extensive" downed trees and says crews are working around the clock to make repairs.

PSE&G has made water and power strips at the Medford fire station located at 1 Firehouse Lane, the Lenola fire house at 229 N. Lenola Road and Cherry Hill West High School. until 8 p.m. Wednesday night and from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Thursday.

JCP&L has restored power to Ocean County who lost power, mostly in Lacey Township.

The high-speed PATCO line resumed operation Wednesday afternoon with a modified schedule running 4-car trains every 20 minutes.. NJ Transit will cross-honor tickets. PATCO expects power to be restored by PSE+G by mid-morning on Wednesday.

NJ Transit's Atlantic City line will remain suspended on Thursday due to continued storm related damage including both commercial power and communications issues. NJ Transit buses will provide service along the route and will cross honor tickets.

Heavy thunderstorm in Woolwich (Betty Amorosso via Twitter @BetsyAmorosso)

The National  Weather Service reports fallen trees and  wind gusts all around South Jersey, with 70 mph gusts in Glassboro, Long Beach Island and Medford, which appears to have been especially hard hit with a report of a collapsed building and a transformer fire. Meteorologist Dan Zarrow says "really heavy straight-line winds"  between 60 and 70 mph may have affected the area.

The National Weather Service has determined that a tornado did not touchdown near Greenwich in Gloucester County. According to meteorologist Valerie Meola, the storm produced “straight line” wind gusts of up to 85 miles per hour. The wind speeds were measured from Greenwich, NJ.
No other surveys have been requested to be taken for possible tornadoes in Ocean or Burlington counties.

Brian Bower, of Pitman, was taking a nap but woke up when the storm rolled through.

"Extreme wind, thunder, lightning, the street was covered with tree limbs and branches," Bower said. "It was a very scary time. It came out of nowhere. I’ve never experienced something like this in my life."

BJ Collings was in Turnersville when the storm hit.

"Everything was flying through the air, 100 feet up across, and then trees were just coming up and it was bad, like the Wizard of Oz, it was bad," Collings said. "My wife was nervous, but I thought it was kind of thrilling."

Mark Stevens, of Washington Township, is sure his neighborhood was hit by a tornado.

"It sounded like a freight train coming through, and next thing you know, the trees were falling down and the rain started coming," Stevens said. "I’m from Indiana, so I know what it sounds like. It sounded like a freight train, you know, like a strong wind. No rain, it was totally dry, but the wind was coming in front of it, and all of a sudden the rain came. It took down trees everywhere."

Strong winds ripped off part of the Deptford Mall's exterior, blew out car windows and flipped another car onto its roof. There were no reports of any injuries. More than 30 animals were left stranded when a pet shop roof fell in in Gibbstown. Parents and students scrambled when the storms formed as the Egg Harbor Township High School graduation ended.

A strong thunderstorm that left damage throughout the state moves out of Belmar Tuesday evening. (Photo credit: Twitter user @rgparrish1)

Fallen trees reduced the southbound 42 Freeway to just one lane through Gloucester Township and closed the New Jersey Turnpike between exits #3 (Route 168) and #2 (Route 322) according to New Jersey Fast Traffic. Route 70 was also closed in Medford as was Route 47 in Deptford

 

Amtrak suspended the Northeast Corridor between Philadelphia and Washington D.C. so crews could inspect damage caused by earlier storms in Delaware and Maryland but service has been restored. Newark Liberty Airport had delays on Tuesday of over three hours thanks in part to earlier storms.

David Matthau and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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