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12:03 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

More powerful storms expected to hit RI

PROVIDENCE, RI – More powerful thunderstorms are expected Thursday afternoon through the evening. The biggest danger, according to the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, is for damaging winds and large hail. Heavy downpours could also cause flooding.

The National Weather Service says the time frame of greatest risk appears to be between 3:00 pm - 8:00 pm, but there could also be severe thunderstorms earlier.

A powerful thunderstorm blew through northern Rhode Island Wednesday night, leaving streets strewn with downed trees, street signs and power lines. Some residents of the west end of Providence thought it was a tornado.

The storm hit Providence about 2:00 am bringing 75 mile per hour winds and golf ball sized hail. It woke up many residents including Tom Isom who lives in the west end of the city.

"I had my big windows open. I was laying on the couch. It was like snowing outside and hail was this big and the rain was pouring down," says Isom. "I was never scared in my life. The first time in my life I was scared of a storm. I think it was a mini tornado."

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare says it will take a couple of days to remove all the trees and tree limbs that litter city streets.

"I haven't seen something like this in quite some time," says Pare. "We've had hurricanes. We've had other types of storms. But this was quick and pretty severe in the intensity of the wind."

Pare says the west end of the city received the brunt of the damage. Cranston and East Providence have downed trees as well.

Clearing the Roads
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation says it will take until Friday for maintenance crews to remove the trees and branches on state roads.

The DOT's Joe Baker says crews were out almost as soon as the storm passed early Thursday morning, cutting up trees and pulling limbs off roads.

He says the storm cut a path along the northern edge of the Narragansett Bay.

"Elmwood Avenue, Route 10, even on 95 today, there's a lot of leaves and lose debris that caught up on the barrier and then all the way across the bay into East Providence, that seems to be a good stretch," Baker says.

In East Providence, several power and maintenance crews lined a stretch of Veterans Memorial Parkway on Thursday morning from Riverside to the 195 onramp.

Residents Without Power
National Grid says 3,000 Rhode Island customers are without power Thursday afternoon as a result of the storms. National Grid spokeswoman Debbie Drew says most of the outages are in Providence and Bristol counties.

"We are looking at downed wires, downed poles, trees coming down on our equipment," says Drew.

Drew says they're working as fast as they can to restore power.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we'd like to hear from you. news@wrni.org.