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Strong thunderstorms snarl traffic, knock out power

Large hail was seen in Kittery, Maine.
Large hail was seen in Kittery, Maine.John Tlumacki/Globe staff

Severe thunderstorms that brought lightning strikes, strong winds, and hail as large as golf balls whipped through Massachusetts on Tuesday, snarling traffic, downing trees, and knocking out power to thousands of residents.

The storm began early Tuesday morning and continued to tear through the state into the evening, before the hail had ended by 10 p.m. Thunderstorm warnings remained in effect until 8 p.m., according to Matt Doody, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton.

"We are in a lull that will last through the night," Doody said late Tuesday night. "We are in the clear."

At 7:30 p.m., 22,038 customers were without power, but that number dropped to 10,354 by 11 p.m., according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

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A tornado warning had been issued for Worcester County earlier in the day, but the weather service said Tuesday night that no twister had touched down in the Commonwealth.

Eastern Massachusetts caught the brunt of the storm, getting deluged with pieces of hail measuring at least 2 inches in diameter, according to Eleanor Vallier-Talbot, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"But it looks like, to some degree, everybody got hit hard," she said.

Littleton in Middlesex County reported large hail as well, she said.

Local police, firefighters, and public works employees across the state scrambled Tuesday night, cleaning up downed power lines and trees. State Police reported at least 700 emergency calls to headquarters during three hours of intense downpours.

At 4 p.m., state troopers responded to a 16-vehicle crash on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Westborough. A strong burst of weather with hail and strong winds had come through the area, causing several drivers to lose control in a chain-reaction of crashes, according to Trooper Craig Brabham.

Two people were transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center with minor injuries, State Police said.

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In Boston at about 4 p.m., gusts of 48-mile-per-hour winds blew through the Fenway area and 60-mile-per-hour winds were recorded on Deer Island.

"All of a sudden, this storm really came through, dropping thunder and lightning everywhere," said State Trooper Matthew Guarino, who was manning the telephone lines.

There were reports of trees crashing into homes in Billerica, Newton, Brookline, and Peabody, but only minor injuries and damages were reported, according to MEMA.

Lieutenant Eric Fricke, a public information officer for the Newton Fire Department, said his department helped remove a large branch that pierced the roof of a home on Lothrop Street.

Also in Newton, two kayakers were rescued from the Charles River after they were reported missing during the storm.

Fallen trees and power lines tied up traffic during the afternoon and through the evening commute.

Power lines fell across Interstate 95 in Burlington and traffic was diverted off the highway until 3 p.m., Guarino said.

The southbound lanes of the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury were closed after the storm knocked two large trees onto the roadway. That was cleared by 6 p.m.

At 6 p.m., Memorial Drive was closed at Aubrey Street in Cambridge after a tree fell and knocked down a power line. The road was reopened later in the evening.

In Brookline, a "confirmed lightning strike" sparked a fire on Davis Court, according to police in that town. Firefighters quickly put out the blaze.

On Wednesday skies will be partly cloudy and there is a chance of a thunderstorm or "small hail" during the afternoon, Doody said.

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Hail storm moves through region

Hail as large as golf balls fell around Boston Tuesday afternoon as a severe thunderstorm swept through the area.

Some strong storms moved through the area Tuesday afternoon.
Some strong storms moved through the area Tuesday afternoon.Jim Davis/Globe staff

Globe correspondents Astead W. Herndon, Sarah Roberts, and Lauren Smith contributed to this report. Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jacktemp. Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.