WESTFIELD, NJ – (Updated at 10:32 p.m.) The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning that expired at 6 p.m. Saturday for Union County and surrounding areas, and by that time trees appeared to have taken down some power lines.
The warning issued at 4:59 p.m. had advised the public to expect damage to trees and power lines. In Westfield, photos showed wires and at least one tree fallen on Woodland Avenue near its intersection with Wychwood Road. The hazard appeared to have been taped off by 6 p.m.
North Avenue westbound traffic was closed at Fourth Avenue due to a large tree down, Westfield Police said in an alert sent just before 7 p.m.
Westfield Police advised the public to avoid downed wires and to call PSE&G to report fallen wires. "Avoid wires down," police said in a Nixle message. "Treat all wires down as live and do not approach any wires down."
Around 9:30 p.m., Mayor Shelley Brindle reported nobody in Westfield was injured in the fast-moving storm.
The Weather Service warning had advised that winds could reach 60 mph.
“Frequent cloud to ground lightning is occurring with this storm. Move indoors immediately. Lightning is one of nature`s leading killers,” the Weather Service stated. “Remember, if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.”
The warning said to expect “torrential rainfall” that may lead to flash flooding. Forecasters advised the public not to drive through flooded roadways.
In Scotch Plains, trees fell on Lake Avenue between Raritan Road and Lake Road, said Bob Burslem, a Westfield resident who reported stopping his car just in front of a flaming power line shortly after 5 p.m.
Speaking from a cell phone at around 5:30 p.m., Burslem told TAPinto Westfield he saw what appeared to be a way to circumvent the hazard.
“There are power lines that are down that are on fire in front of me, and there are big trees that are down behind me,” he added.
As of 10:15 p.m., 11,315 PSE&G customers were without power across Union County, according to the utility's outage map. Of those customers, 235 customers in Westfield were without power and 4,298 people remained without power in Scotch Plains.
PSE&G on its website estimated the power would be restored between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. to the customers in Westfield and Scotch Plains.
To report downed wires, the public may contact PSE&G at 1-800-880-7734 or text "OUT" to 4PSEG (47734). Register your phone first by texting "REG" to 4PSEG.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh