UPDATE: Reports Say Possible Tornado Passed Through Whiting And Howell, Crews Have Cleared Roads
Reports of damage ongoing as police respond to multiple incidents; National Weather Service calls off severe thunderstorm warning
Manchester police received over 40 emergency calls after severe weather hit Whiting Wednesday afternoon, downing trees and damaging homes throughout the township's western section, authorities said.
Though no injuries in that area were reported, police Wednesday night confirmed that a Parlin man was killed on Route 571 in the eastern section of town when two trees fell on his vehicle.
Arthur Abline, Manchester's emergency management coordinator, said that the calls began coming in after the storm hit around 3:45 p.m. Emergency responders set up a command center at the Whiting Fire Department.
"We didn't have any warning on the storm. It just came out of nowhere," he said.
Much of the damage, which Abline called "cosmetic," was located in Crestwood Village, a retirement community in Whiting, though streets throughout the township remain littered with branches, twigs and fallen trunks.
Two residents were displaced from their homes because of damage, according to Capt. Lisa Parker.
Sgt. James Komsa said that no injuries were reported near the severe weather in Whiting and no evacuations were necessary. No major roadways were blocked by debris, he said.
Drivers saw what appeared to be a tornado heading north, and passing through Howell off Route 9, though it is not clear if this storm caused damage in Whiting.
Komsa said that police do not yet know if a tornado touched down in the area and Parker said that there were no reported twister sightings.
Meteorologist Al Cove of the National Weather Service's Mount Holly Station said the service does not yet have confirmation that the damaging storm produced a twister, but that there was "a signature on the radar that looked like it might be a tornado."
Trees downed in Crestwood Village were removed from the streets by Wednesday night by emergency responders from Manchester and neighboring municipalities. Crestwood Village maintenance crews will be tasked with cleaning the debris, Abline said.
Bob Breen, who has lived on Constitution Boulevard in Whiting for 11 years, said that the storm was like nothing he had seen before.
"This was unbelievable. I said, 'what the hell is going on here?' Even our dog was cowering," he said from his driveway Wednesday evening, just feet away from his neighbor's fallen tree.
Breen said that the precipitation, including rain and hail, fell horizontally and wind gusts were "tremendously loud" during the storm.
"This neighborhood right here had to be the center of the storm," he said.
A few blocks over on Hudson Parkway, George Frank, who has lived in Crestwood Village for 24 years, said that the storm became "pretty scary," especially when hail began falling.
"I was worried my car would look like Swiss cheese," he said.
Frank said that he believes the storm took a specific path through the neighborhood, as streets have various degrees of damage.
"Some of the streets, you won't find a leaf on the ground," he said.
Portions of Route 571 near the Ridgeway Fire House were closed at about 4:30 p.m. as crews cleaned a downed tree from the roadway. Traffic was slowed along the county road, which is also a main artery for the Pine Lake Park. A detour was in place at the intersection of Routes 571 and 70.
In Toms River, New Hampshire and Whitesville was facing severe traffic delays as of 4:30 p.m.
Traffic was also an issue along Route 37 near the Walmart, where a report of a car accident has slowed traffic as lane closures are in place as emergency responders tend to the accident.
Jersey Central Power & Light confirmed power outages for less than 500 customers were reported in Lakehurst, Lakewood, Toms River, Bayville, Browns Mills, Point Pleasant and Jackson as of 5:22 p.m. Wednesday.
Cove said the storm was tracking northward and the worst of the weather has left Ocean County, leaving golf ball-sized hail and downed trees in its wake.
Severe thunderstorm warnings calling for hail and damaging winds have now been called off for the area, Cove said.
Previous NWS reports said the storm was located along a line extending from Eatontown to Cassville section of Jackson, or "along a line extending 11 miles south of Sandy Hook to 14 miles northwest of Toms River," and was moving east at 20 miles per hour.
Abline recommends that if severe weather strikes again, residents should head to the center of their homes, away from windows and doors.
According to Parker, Whiting and Manchester responders were assisted by fire crews from Bamber Lakes, Forked River, Lakehurst and Manitou Park. The Bayville and Holiday City at Berkeley First Aid Squads, Ocean County Road Department, Manchester Public Works, Salvation Army, American Red Cross and the Ocean County Fire/EMS also assisted.