A line of strong thunderstorms swept through New Jersey late Thursday night, bringing down trees and branches and plunging thousands into darkness.

"As a cold front slammed into New Jersey, widespread wind gusts between 40 and 60 mph blew through the state. The top gust: 62 mph at High Point," New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said.

Trees took down several utility poles and traffic lights along Belmar Boulevard and Route 34 in Wall Township, according to Wall police spokesman Capt. Greg Carpino.

Carpino said that Route 34 would remain closed between the Collingswood Circle and Route 195 to allow Verizon, New Jersey Department of Transportation and JCP&L crews to make repairs until early Sunday morning.

The Glendola Fire Company of Wall posted pictures on its Facebook page of a "substantial building collapse" at the Monmouth Jet Center on Route 34.

Neptune Township's Special Operations Rescue on its Facebook page said two houses on Iris Drive and Center Street suffered structural damage from falling trees. No one was injured at either house.

Zarrow said that the wind really "sharpened up" as it passed over that area of southern Monmouth County with possibly straight line winds or a microburst with 60 mph winds.

"It didn't help matters that the area around the airport is very open. Fewer trees and buildings means less friction to slow down the wind," Zarrow said.

An uprooted tree fell on top of a house on South Park Terrace in Union Township and pulled down wires, according to Union Township police. No one was injured, police said.

Madison Borough in Morris County appears to have been especially hard-hit, as school was canceled and a State of Emergency was declared in order to "insure that authorities will be unhampered in their efforts to maintain law and order" and protect residents.

Madison Mayor Robert Conley and DPW Superintendent Ken O'Brien (Borough of Madison)

More than 16,000 utility customers across the state were without power as of 10:20 a.m., according to the respective utility maps.

PSE&G crews are working 16 hours shifts to assess damage and make repairs with additional personnel dispatched including tree and line crews, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Mazzarella. She did not offer an estimated time for restoration.

Mazzarella said that a morning outage in Trenton was because of an underground network issue and not storm related.

JCP&L spokesman Mark Nigowski said that trees still full with leaves are more prone to falling onto wires and equipment, creating outages. He said crews are out making repairs to restore service as safely and as quickly as possible, but had no estimated restoration time.

Tree that fell onto a house in Neptune Township (Neptune Twp Special Operations Rescue)
Damage at Monmouth Jet Center in Wall (Glendola Fire Company)
Transformer fire on Belmar Blvd. in Wall (Glendola Fire Company)
A downed wire on Route 27 in Metuchen (Metuchen PD)
Tree into a house in Union Township (RLS Metro Breaking News)

Cell phones in parts of Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset counties buzzed with a late-night Tornado Warning as radar picked up rotation in a storm just over the Delaware River in Newtown, Pennsylvania, that tracked east over Hopewell, Pennington, and Princeton, according to Zarrow.

"I doubt there was a tornado on the ground, but it sure was windy. Radar-estimated 65 mph straight-line wind gusts as it crossed the Delaware River," Zarrow said.

NJ Transit did not report any storm-related problems.

Fallen utility pole in Harvey Cedars (Harvey Cedars Police)

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ.

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