(Adds flood warnings in Vermont)
By Zach Howard
CONWAY, Mass. Jan 31 (Reuters) - Rain and high winds lashed U.S. Northeast and mid-Atlantic states early on Thursday, knocking out power to more than 330,000 homes and businesses as they braced for a coming snowstorm.
Gusty winds of up to 77 miles per hour battered parts of New England and a high-wind advisory remains in effect until 6 p.m. for northern Connecticut, most of Massachusetts, and southern New Hampshire, the National Weather Service said.
Thunderstorms rolled across the Northeast early on Thursday morning, toppling trees and downing utility lines. Among the hardest hit areas were Connecticut, where about 71,000 customers had no electricity; Long Island, with about 34,000 customers out; and New Jersey, where about 27,000 customers were without power, according to utility reports.
Heavy rainfall caused several dams in Carroll County, Virginia, to overflow after "river flow increased a multiple of 10 times in just 12 hours," said a statement released by Appalachian Power.
The state of Vermont warned residents on Thursday to brace for flash flooding from the storm, with heavy rains causing ice jams in rivers. Residents of low-lying areas were advised to seek higher ground immediately if water began to rise on local rivers.
Raging winds tore the roof off of an elementary school in Fall River, Massachusetts, sending bricks and other debris crashing to the street below, local media reported. A large section of the roof of another elementary school, this one in Raynham, south of Boston, also was blown off, with some debris landing across the street. No one was reported injured.
Early morning bursts of wind and rain also caused traffic accidents. In Centerville, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, a teenage girl crossing the street to board a school bus was seriously injured after being hit by a car in what police called a weather-related crash, local media said. In Boston, a toppled tree fell on an ambulance on its way to pick up a patient. No injuries were reported.
From Friday through the weekend, a series of storms threatens to dump snow from the Midwest to New England and the mid-Atlantic, according to meteorologist Alex Sosnowski on Accuweather.com. Slick conditions could snarl the Friday morning commute to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, he said. (Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino; Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Bob Burgdorfer)