Cuomo landed in Smithfield near Syracuse, where the storm Tuesday evening destroyed several houses.
"The property damage that we've seen in Madison County is explosive in its effect," he said. "It looks like literally a bomb went off in a house and you just see devastation everywhere. Again, that's what tornadoes do. But we see those pictures on TV. We don't normally see them in the state of New York."
Cuomo, a strong advocate of action to slow climate change, said that New York has had 11 meteorological disasters declared by the federal government since he took office in January 2010. He called it "a pattern of extreme weather that is different."
The dead in Smithfield have been identified as Kimberly Hillard, 35, her daughter, Paris Newman, 4 months, and two neighbors, Arnie Allen, 53, and Virginia Warner, 70.
Fast-moving thunderstorms brought high winds and bursts of rain to much of the northeast Tuesday evening. In Maryland, a camper at River Valley Ranch in Carroll County in Maryland was killed by a falling tree.