Likely Tornado Tears Through NYC Yesterday At Height Of Rush Hour, One Person Killed By Falling Tree


I lived in a small Victorian town outside Philadelphia in 1991 when a tornado came through, and even though the town was only one square mile, there were so many trees down, it took an hour to get from one end of the town to my apartment -- and we didn't have power for three days. I can only imagine the scale of the cleanup that New Yorkers face today:

A flash storm that followed tornado warnings powered through New York City Thursday evening, with winds up to 70 miles per hour knocking down trees, damaging buildings, destroying cars and causing the death of at least one person.

The severe weather wreaked havoc on the city’s transportation system in the middle of the evening commute. All Long Island Rail Road service was suspended out of Manhattan due to downed trees on the tracks near Sunnyside, Queens. LIRR service was also disrupted between Brooklyn and Queens, and the entire 7 subway line was inoperative for several hours.

Several roadways were closed to vehicular traffic because of the debris. A woman was killed when a tree toppled onto her vehicle on the Grand Central Parkway near Jewel Avenue, authorities said.

The storm also knocked out power to more than 24,000 customers in Queens and 4,800 households in Staten Island, according to Con Edison. More than 570 customers were without power in Brooklyn. New Jersey power authorities said about 40,000 households were without electricity in the wake of the storm.

Nearly an hour after the storm passed, 911 switchboards were inundated with calls of injuries but it was unclear just how many were considered serious, a spokesman for the Fire Department said. The spokesman said several firefighters responded to scenes in Queens and Brooklyn where motorists were stuck in their vehicles after having trees fall on them.

Aaron Donovan, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman, urged LIRR passengers to “sit tight for the moment” and not head to Penn Station or Jamaica. New passengers were being turned away from Penn Station, he said.

The MTA was mobilizing shuttle buses to take LIRR passengers from the station in Jamaica, Queens, to points east, but Donovan urged passengers not to go to Jamaica because of limited bus capacity.

While a tornado was never officially declared, a trained weather spotter reported seeing a funnel cloud about two miles north-northeast of Staten Island’s Huguenot neighborhood, according to National Weather Service spokesman Sean Potter. Wind speeds of 70 mph were estimated for Staten Island, while parts of Brooklyn saw sustained 60 mph winds, Potter said.

Brandon Smith, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Upland, N.Y., said the agency received “lots of reports of damage in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens” in the wake of the storm. “Primarily tree damage, large branches all over the place,” he said.


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