The New York City Tornado as seen from Forest Hills, Queens
September 16, 2010 –
It all happened within 5 minutes…. At about quarter to 6, without warning, during the height of the evening rush, the most violent storm in NYC’s recent memory tore across Staten Island, Brooklyn and central Queens. One tornado, with winds of 80 mph sent rooftops flying in Brooklyn, and a second tornado touched down in Queens, combined with a macroburst with winds in excess of 120mph. There was one tragic fatality, 1,500 trees were lost, 3,000 lightning strikes were counted, and 911 fielded 24,000 calls in the three hours following the storm.
The sky was getting dark, but having heard nothing on the weather forecast, I went out to the supermarket. As I walked back there was near constant thunder and I almost ran to get home, feeling the impending intensity in the air- the charge was stronger than any other I’ve felt. I hurried up the front walk of our apartment just as the first big drops were falling and by the time I made it upstairs, water was blasting through the windows. Even after I closed them, water was coming THROUGH the air conditioner. You could see nothing outside but a dark-green and grey swirl and it sounded as if someone was punching the glass, trying to get in. The wind seemed to come from everywhere. And then it was suddenly gone.
Almost immediately, the sirens began, and I’m sure many were injured. Very sadly, a woman from Pennsylvania was killed nearby in her car. Our front walkway was barricaded by fallen trees, which was the general scene everywhere. Every block was littered with trees, many of them huge and ancient. A few windows in our building were smashed out. Eerily, there were also a number of shoes and umbrellas laying around- discarded as people ran for cover. In the air was the smell of fire. I must have seen more than 60 damaged cars, and about ten which were completely crushed. Many streets were impassable, and a traffic nightmare quickly ensued- total gridlock, people going the wrong way down streets, pedestrians everywhere, and off-duty cops trying their best to keep the peace. Someone told me it took him one hour to drive two blocks.
The general sense on the street was one of disbelief, as many homebound commuters emerged from the subway totally unaware of what happened, the unique Forest Hills blend of trees and urban-ness mangled out of recognition. As night fell, the scene became more chaotic still, with snarled traffic and constant sirens lasting until well after midnight. Firefighters from other neighborhoods were having trouble navigating the bizarre address system of Queens, and worse, could barely fight through the crowds. I overheard on a police radio that, among other incidents, a woman was going into labor a few blocks away.
Up at Queens Boulevard, a few stores had lost their windows- some had overturned shelves and puddles of water. Many signs were damaged and some teenagers were gleefully carrying a huge green “Yellowstone Blvd” sign that had fallen.
After midnight, there was a bit of peace, but within an hour around 7am, the chaos returned full force. All told, however, we were lucky. It is amazing, though sad, that there was only one fatality- that almost everyone managed to stay clear of all the falling trees is miraculous. Far worse things happen all the time around the world. Still, the words on everyone’s lips as you walked through the neighborhood the next day were best summed up by what I heard an elderly woman say in a thick Russian accent: “In my life, I never seen nothing like this”
In comparison to the storms that ravage other parts of the country this was nothing. Sadly…
More pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattron/sets/72157625006608372/
Posted on August 8, 2011, in NYC present, Uncategorized and tagged 2010, aftermath, forest hills, macroburst, new york, new york city, nyc, queens, september, tornado. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.