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Officials: All Lanes Of BQE Closed By Billboard Collapse Should Be Open By Saturday Morning

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Billboard Collapse (credit: Marla Diamond / WCBS 880)

Billboard Collapse (credit: Marla Diamond / WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An arctic cold front is bringing strong winds and dropping temperatures across the Tri-State Area. The powerful gusts caused a huge 40-50 ton billboard to come crashing down onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on Friday afternoon.

“It’s weird. I was not expecting it when I got home,” said Ingrid Wheatley, who lives across from the scene in East Williamsburg.

“What it made me think about it is it could have fallen this side as well. Like, it could have fallen either way, and that’s kind of scary,” she told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.

Debris blocked two lanes of the westbound BQE, causing gridlock for miles.

It was just before 2 p.m. when the billboard, advertising the Mega Millions lottery, fell like a see-saw. It landed first on an auto shop at 421 Meeker Ave., in Greenpoint, and then on the concrete barrier of the BQE, before finally falling apart on the service drive below.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond On The Scene

Workers in the auto body shop below, said they could hear the sign swaying in the wind all day, but never thought it would actually fall until the bolts started breaking.

“It just sound like gunshots, and then it fell on the building,” worker Romin Sirgue told CBS 2’s Dennis. “Like gunshots, pow, pow, pow, and eventually it fell.

“Yeah, yeah, freaked out, I thought it was a truck fall over from the BQE,” Sirgue said.

Another concern stemming from the accident is a minor gas leak from the garage, but the weather is actually beneficial.

“The wind is helping us, because it’s helping to dissipate the gas leak,” explained FDNY Deputy Chief Robert Strong.

Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno said National Grid was to turn off the gas in the building and it “does not appear to be a significant problem.”

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By nightfall, a heavy duty crane was brought in to help blowtorch the twisted metal into smaller parts.

“You know we got to get the wood and vinyl out of the way before we can start burning. We got to get to that. Then once we get the wood and vinyl out of the way, then we’ll cut it apart,” said Jim Ramsburgh of Empire Erectors.

During the cleanup and removal, at least three neighboring buildings have been ordered to vacate for safety.

The wind, wear and tear, and the age of the billboard are all factors in the fall, officials said.

The collapse caused no structural damage to the BQE. Two lanes of the highway above were shut down while police help engineers inspect the damage, but all lanes should be open by Saturday morning.

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