BOSTON -- A record-breaking autumn storm plunged hundreds of thousands of people into the dark, toppled trees, canceled schools and delayed trains in the Northeast, while persistent winds Thursday hampered efforts to clean up and restore power.
The nor'easter brought high winds and rain to the region Wednesday and Thursday. Winds gusted to as high as 90 mph on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where about 200,000 residents lost power.
The storm left nearly 200,000 people without power in Maine, too. Heavy rain combined with 60 mph wind gusts knocked down trees and power lines, the Maine Emergency Management Agency said, advising residents to look for hazards on Thursday because many roads were unsafe.
In Portland, Maine, the atmospheric pressure at sea level — an indicator of the strength of a storm — was the lowest ever recorded in October, said William Watson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Maine.
Nine boats were tossed ashore in Rockland, Maine, and a pier suffered some damage, said Sarah Flink, executive director of Cruise Maine.
The nor'easter formed off New Jersey, strengthening as it traveled north. New York authorities said a wind-driven fire destroyed three houses in the Fire Island hamlet of Ocean Bay Park early Thursday. No injuries were reported.
Train delays, power outages and school cancellations were reported throughout the region Thursday morning. Leaves and debris that littered roads created a slippery traffic hazard for commuters.
Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Massachusetts, said the storm system met the definition of "bombogenesis."
Storm intensity is measured by central pressure— the lower the pressure, the stronger it is. A storm is considered a "bomb" when the pressure drops rapidly.
"That's why we ended up with strong, sustained winds and wind gusts," Buttrick said. "It's an indicator of an extremely powerful storm and not something to ignore."
Buttrick forecast that the storm would continue traveling north and northeast, across the Maine coast through Thursday, reaching north of Nova Scotia by Friday morning.
Most areas saw rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches, though some areas of southern New England got about 4 inches.
In New Hampshire, about 100 school districts reported closings and delays Thursday morning due to no electricity or downed trees and powerlines. A wind gust of 128 mph was reported on Mount Washington, the Northeast's highest peak, according to the National Weather Service.