Reporting Pablo Guzmán
NEW YORK (CBS 2/WCBS 880/1010 WINS/AP) – The sudden blast of Mother Nature’s fury on Thursday lasted just minutes, but left a path of destruction across the tri-state area.
The National Weather Service confirmed Friday that two tornadoes and a microburst struck the New York City area on Thursday evening.
The weaker of the two, with gusts up to 80 miles per hour, was in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The other tornado touched down about two miles south of Flushing, Queens, north of Bayside with winds of 100 miles per hour.
But most of the damage in Queens was caused by a macroburst. It packed winds of 125 mph, hitting Middle Village and Forest Hills.
The NWS said the macroburst was a mile wide.
The city estimates more than 1,000 trees were destroyed and dozens of buildings damaged. The fury of wind and rain that pummeled the area was New York City’s ninth and tenth tornado since 1950, the National Weather Service said Friday night.
Kyle Struckmann, a meteorologist with the agency, said it was amazing that only one person died.
“It’s practically a miracle considering the population that was affected by this,” he said.
On Friday, Gov. David Paterson asked Federal Emergency Management Agency to send crews to assess the extent of the damage.
Whipping winds snapped trees like twigs, toppling them onto cars, homes, power lines, and anything else in the way.
Thursday’s fast-moving storm tore through Queens, where three neighborhoods seemed to have been hit particularly hard – Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, and Kew Gardens Hills.
Trees were toppled onto cars and homes, and workers were assessing the damage and clean-up on Friday.
VIDEO: KEW GARDENS HILLS, QUEENS
Mariann De Rosa said she called 311 five months ago to warn about two unsteady trees, both of which came down Thursday night.
“No one ever came…nothing,” De Rosa said.
In Kew Gardens Hills, one woman was just heading out to her car before a tree came crashing down on top of it.
“As soon as I opened the door, I saw a huge tree falling,” Eleanor Levy said. “I had no idea it smashed my car. My car is completely totaled. I was shocked.”
In Queens, not even a church was spared from the storm’s wrath.
It seems everywhere residents turn in Queens, from Bayside to Middle Village, there are crushed cars, downed power lines and toppled trees.
1010 WINS Reporter Al Jones with a politician who’s asking for state help
1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera with friends of a woman killed in the storm
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports from Flushing
WCBS 880′s Sophia Hall: Animals Need Special Care in Storms
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports from Staten Island
1010 WINS’ John Montone reports from Park Slope
WCBS 880′s Paul Murnane on damage in Park Slope, Brooklyn
WCBS 880′s Sean Adams on damage in Tottenville, Staten Island
1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports from Jamaica Station
WCBS 880′s Craig Allen with Weather To Go
WCBS 880′s Ginny Kosola on damage in Flushing, Queens
WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell on damage in Auburndale, Queens
Residents who were in the storm’s path, though, were counting their blessings on Friday, especially the members of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Flushing. Their church steeple is now just a pile of wood.
“I walked up from the other side of the street and it was an empty feeling, like a loss, like somebody had died or something,” church caretaker Blaise Scelsi said.
The landmark church, and it’s 50-foot spire, had majestically towered over Main Street since 1854. Powerful winds plucked the steeple right off it’s foundation on Thursday, smashing it onto the street below.
“The wind changed and all of sudden, it hit the church and I heard a bang,” Christos said. “I didn’t know what it was because everything was flying around…To me, it looked like a twister.”
The storm hit in the middle of rush hour, when dozens of people would normally be standing right outside the church at a bus stop – right where the spire toppled into a pile a debris.
The rain had come down so heavy that everyone ran for shelter, and no one was on the street to get hurt.
“My first reaction was typical of our members,” Pastor Shawn Duncan said. “We were giving thanks no one was injured.”
VIDEO: NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS IN PARK SLOPE
The destruction was simply unbelievable to longtime Middle Village residents like Dawn Suzel.
“It was scary – we really didn’t have any warning,” Suzel said. “We didn’t hear anything on the radio, and all of a sudden it was just intense winds. You felt like you were in the ‘Wizard of Oz.’”
“It got to a point you couldn’t even see anything,” Alessandro Silaco said. “There was just so much going on, you didn’t know what to look at; [it was like] something out of a movie.”
A huge tree was seemingly effortlessly uprooted from the ground. It pulled down power lines and smashed a car right outside Suzel’s home.
“We’re probably not going to have power for days,” she said. “Thank God no one was hurt, that’s the most important thing.”
In Park Slope, Brooklyn, residents were still trying to deal with post-storm clean-up on Friday.
Sandy Noble spent the day thanking her neighbors, particularly those at Danny’s Tire Shop, for helping her clean up after a mighty hardwood tree came crashing through her kitchen skylight and into her second-floor bedroom window. She wasn’t home at the time, but her neighbors were there for her.
VIDEO: STORM LEAVES A MESS IN STATEN ISLAND
“I feel like they are family – Danny’s tire shop, they were amazing,” Noble said. “They came back with a chainsaw, with plastic, with tape. They cleaned up the floor, they made it possible that I could stay in my bedroom last night.”
“We’re just friends and neighbors. We have the business around the corner,” Danny Moran, who owns that tire shop, said. “The minute she approached and said she needed help, I happen to have a chainsaw, and me and my guys came over and helped her out.”
Throughout Park Slope, neighbors were pitching in and helping out in the aftermath.
On 13th Street, everyone came together for Ronnie Gluck, who lives in the oldest house on the block. The gorgeous Victorian home was built in 1863.
Gluck said neighbors had complained to the city six months ago that the sycamore tree out front looked weak and sickly, but nothing was done. On Friday, the tree was precariously balancing on Gluck’s home, and his neighbor’s car.
“My insurance company isn’t coming until Monday, because they don’t work on Saturday and Sunday, and part of the tree is on my neighbor’s car,” Gluck said.
The extent of the damage is staggering in Staten Island.
Fierce winds peeled the roof off of an auto shop, exposing the cars inside – and crushing the ones in the parking lot with debris.
The New Brighton section is one of the neighborhoods especially hard-hit by the bout of nasty weather, with tree limbs on cars and trees coming down altogether.
“It got very quiet, and then it sounded like a train coming up the street,” Margaret Ann Wilkinson said.
Charisa Mangin’s home lost power during the harsh winds and rain.
“I think it was a tornado, because I came out on my porch, and I saw the swirling,” Mangin said. “It was like a hint of green – it was not dark out anymore.”
One maple tree was partially uprooted, and falling limbs hit a house nearby while the owner was inside.
“You heard like a ‘whoosh,’ like a sandstorm, ‘boom,’” Mangin said. “That’s when the thing fell on top of the roof.”
The storm seemed to hit a couple of blocks in Staten Island, doing significant damage and downing trees and power lines, before moving on.
“We got hit real quick, suddenly,” Chris Peterson said. “It was just a downpour, and all you heard was the wind gusting through.”
The focus now has turned to clean-up and restoring power to residents in neighborhoods where power lines were affected. Crews are out in force across the tri-state to repair damage and clean up downed trees and branches.
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