Severe thunderstorms swept across Massachusetts this afternoon, pounding it with heavy rain, hail, and lightning. The storms flooded roadways and knocked down tree limbs and power lines, leaving more than 23,000 people without power. Several fires were started after apparent lightning strikes on buildings.
Shortly before 6:30 p.m., National Weather Service radar showed the storms easing out of the Boston area and southern and southeastern Massachusetts, as well as Cape Cod, on their way to the east, out to sea.
But weather service meteorologist Lance Franck said that may not be the end of the story. A second line of storms is approaching the state from the west.
“I wouldn’t underestimate them,” he said. “There is the potential for more severe weather.”
At 2:04 p.m., the National Weather Service warned of a thunderstorm capable of spawning a tornado near Lynn, just north of Boston, but the warning was quickly canceled.
The entire state is under a severe thunderstorm watch until 9 p.m., the weather service said. It began issuing thunderstorm warnings early this afternoon as its Doppler radar picked up cloudbursts capable of producing high winds and damaging hail in various parts of the state, including the North Shore, Boston, the South Shore, and Cape Cod.
State Police said the North Shore experienced roadway flooding in several locations, including Route 1 at Exit 114 in Peabody, which was under two feet of water.
The Nahant-Lynn rotary and Lynnway at Commercial Street also flooded, and the Nahant Causeway had standing water, as did Route 1 southbound at Route 60, State Police said.
They urged North Shore motorists to use caution and avoid roads in flooded areas.
Some Lynn streets were flooded and some tree limbs and power lines were reported down. Multiple lightning strikes were reported in the area, including one that sparked a roof fire, a police dispatcher said.
A Swampscott police dispatcher said the town was experiencing flooding in the usual low-lying places, including the train station, but that the areas were draining as the rain stopped.
In Malden, multiple cars stalled out on Route 99 after driving over a large puddle on one stretch, and traffic was backed up for about a mile at about 3:15 p.m.
A deep puddle nearly 50 feet wide, which locals blamed on overwhelmed storm drains, had amassed in the afternoon in the parking lot of the Town Line mobile home park. Many residents were forced to move their cars as the waters rose in their parking spots, and hail had damaged several vehicles, residents said.
“It rained so hard and fast that the drain couldn’t keep up,” said Domenic Vinti, 70. “I’ve never seen it this bad. This was awful.”
Ed Bryan, 56, said the flooding in the parking lot, which spread to front entrances of some homes, was nothing new. “This has been happening since the 1950s,” Bryan said. “When it comes it looks like a river. It’s a couple hours of hell. ”
The car a Globe correspondent was driving in Chelsea was pummeled by golf-ball-sized hail, cracking the windshield.
In Boston’s Dorchester section, lightning struck the attic of a three-story home on Milton Avenue at about 3:30 p.m., the Boston Fire Department tweeted. There were no injuries, but several people were displaced and damage was estimated at $50,000.
At around the same time in Roslindale, lighting struck a transformer on Averton Street, according to a Boston Police Department tweet. There were downed power lines but no injuries were reported, police said.
South of Boston, a Scituate police dispatcher said the town experienced power outages and trees down, but no major problems. A Weymouth police lieutenant said one tree was knocked down, but “nothing outrageous.”
In Duxbury, weather-related problems shut down the 911 call system in the afternoon for a brief period.
“I think we were able to rectify that fairly quickly,” said Fire Captain John Guilderson. He said that as of about 5 p.m., the town had not experienced any severe flooding but had seen lightning and heavy rain. No weather-related injuries had been reported.
“Fortunately not,” Guilderson said.
A Rockland fire dispatcher said lightning sparked two fires there but declined to comment further.
Airports across the Northeast were impacted by storms, and flights at Logan International Airport experienced delays of up to one hour and 45 minutes. The FAA said airports in New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., were experiencing weather-related delays.
National Grid reported about 20,000 people out of power in the midafternoon, mostly on the North Shore. Spokeswoman Charlotte McCormack said extra crews had been brought in before the storm and expected restoration times ranged from 4:45 p.m. to 7 p.m.
NSTAR spokesman Michael Durand said there were about 3,000 customers across the service area without power. He said NSTAR officials were monitoring the weather and were unsure when power will be restored.
Forecasters said earlier today that areas south of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Massachusetts would likely be hit the hardest.
Meteorologist Charlie Foley said once the storms pass through, the cold front will leave behind a beautiful weekend for New England residents.
“The big thing is that this frontal passage will mark the end of the hot and humid air mass that we’ve been experiencing,” making way for refreshing and comfortable weather, Foley said.
There will be lots of sun and low humidity starting Thursday and continuing through Sunday. Daytime temperatures will be in the low 80s, dipping into the 70s on Friday. Nights will be pleasant, with temperatures in the low 60s.