New Yorkers Assess Damage, as Suspected Tornado Tears Through the City

Mayor Bloomberg: The good news is that most people were safe, just annoyed; Tornado warnings issued for Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

New York City residents, utility crews and railroad workers cleaned up debris Friday after a brief but fierce storm barreled through the city, killing at least one person as it tore up trees, stripped off roofs and disrupted train service.

New York storm AP 16.9.2010

The National Weather Service dispatched investigators to assess whether a tornado touched down Thursday evening during the storm. Tornado warnings had been issued for Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, all parts of the city.

Officials at Long Island Rail Road, the largest commuter rail line in the United States, said crews were working through the night to clear tracks of fallen trees, which caused service to be suspended temporarily between Penn Station in Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens, a key station for passengers going to JFK airport.

At least 30,000 customers were without power Thursday night, according to Alfonso Quiroz, a spokesman for Consolidated Edison. He said hardest hit was Queens, with 27,000 outages.

A 30-year-old woman was killed when a tree fell on a parked car in Queens and her 60-year-old passengers suffered minor injuries, police said.

"The good news is that most people were safe, just annoyed - traffic being bad or a tree coming down in their yard," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after touring storm damage in Queens.

Residents were awed by the power of the swift storm.

"A huge tree limb ... flew right up the street, up the hill and stopped in the middle of the air 50 feet [15 meters] up in this intersection and started spinning," said Steve Carlisle, 54. "It was like a poltergeist."

"Then all the garbage cans went up in the air and this spinning tree hits one of them like it was a bat on a ball," he said.

Fire officials were inspecting 10 buildings in Brooklyn whose roofs were peeled off or tattered by the wind.

"The wind was holding my ceiling up in the air. It was like a wave, it went up and fell back down," said Ruby Ellis, 58. "After the roof went up, then all the rain came down and I had a flood."

Kyle Struckmann, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said eight twisters have hit New York City since 1950. The last was in July, when a small one hit the Bronx during a thunderstorm that left thousands without power.

A grateful Townsend Davis stood outside his Brooklyn home on Thursday, where a 40-foot [12-meter] tree was uprooted and crushed two cars.

"I'm just glad it fell that way, as bad as I feel for the owners of that car, because if it fell this way, my house wouldn't be here," said Davis, 47.