Resident: 'It Was Like Sandy But Only For Like A 30-Second Burst'

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF0 tornado touched down in Berkley Heights on Monday afternoon.

The twister set down and traveled approximately 4.8 miles through New Providence into Summit with sustained winds of 85 mph, the NWS said. The agency also said it received reports of a funnel cloud from witnesses.

“Looking outside it was just like you see in the movies, it was just stuff flying,” resident Steven Escott told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “Looked up and just the tops of the tress were just spinning.”

“It was like Sandy but only for like a 30-second burst,” one resident told 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten.

“I’m not sure what to think. It’s like something crazy that happened. I’m not sure what to think about it,” Justin Criscione told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis on Monday night.

Criscione was handling the generator, while his dad cleaned up the backyard. Their lawn furniture was tossed around, part of his fence was left with a gaping hole. The pool was full of debris.

But overall, the damage was minimal.

“Very cosmetic, the deck, the pool, the driveway, so we will take it and not complain,” Fred Criscione said.

Investigators with the National Weather Service spent the evening looking for evidence of a tornado — damage twisted in different directions, trees uprooted and debris scattered by high winds.

“Where you see trees lying in a straight line, that’s more indicative of straight line winds. If you see trees lying in multiple directions that would be more indicative of a tornado,” said Patrick Maloit of Long Island bureau of the National Weather Service.

Some trees were sheared off at the top and others were uprooted.

Homeowner Pri Knor said she and her family got an early heads up, a warning on their cellphones, alerting them of a possible tornado in Union County. They said they took to their basement, and waited.

“It was like a wall, a sheet of rain just blowing past us,” Knor said.

“I thought I was dreaming. I woke up, heard her yelling and I ran,” Kylie Knor added.

Berkeley Heights storm damage. (credit: Peter Haskell/WCBS 880)

Berkeley Heights storm damage. (credit: Peter Haskell/WCBS 880)

Whipping winds along with torrential rain tore through Berkeley Heights just after 9:30 Monday morning.

“I saw the water twirling in the street and we heard a big bang when the limbs went down and the grill turned sideways,” resident Jeanette Bergan told Sloan.

“I heard things like falling all over and just things falling down and I heard our deck furniture was being pushed around,” resident Pri Knorr told Haskell. “It was just scary.”

Knorr said she and her daughters raced to the basement as the violent weather tore through.

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Many said they didn’t take the warning seriously but no one was hurt.

Trees landed on top of a house and in the backyard of a home on Snyder Avenue.

“I thought it was a thunderstorm like usual, but then I woke up and I came downstairs and this big tree was in my backyard,” Bristione told Sloan.

The mayor said the damage is in a very narrow band.

In Bridgewater in Somerset County, there was similar devastation with downed trees landing on top of power lines.

Meantime, cars and trucks pushed through bumper-high water as flash floods turned Route 17 in Paramus into a river.


In Yonkers in Westchester County, officials were working to determine if a powerful cell that downed trees and tore chunks off a roof was due to a microburst of a small tornado.

One resident said the sideways rain appeared white during the deluge.

“Unbelievable. I love the rain but this was ridiculous,” he told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

Storm damage aftermath in Yonkers (credit: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880)

Storm damage aftermath in Yonkers (credit: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880)

Jay Gutierrez and his family hunkered down as the likely microburst roared through. A surveillance camera at the deli in his building caught the whole thing on tape. The deli owner is seen going after trash cans picked up by the storm.

“It just felt like a big hurricane like it was strong wind,” Gutierrez told CBS 2’s Don Champion. “Then we heard it was like a snap and it was that tree. Snap, then the whole area there it knocked the whole area down.”

Along the median on Riverdale Avenue, pear trees were sheared in half.

“Kind of went from the southwest corner of Yonkers and traveled northeast,” Yonkers Public Works Commissioner Thomas Meyer said. “Part of a roof flew off.”

The metal cornice was found twisted like aluminum foil on Willow Street, Silverman reported. The rest of the roof shot more than 50 yards, slamming into the window of another building.

A piece of metal cornice was torn off this building in Yonkers. (credit: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880)

A piece of metal cornice was torn off this building in Yonkers. (credit: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880)

About 30 people have been displaced as a result of the storm, Silverman reported.

“But thankfully no injuries,” Deputy Mayor Susan Gerry told Silverman. “Had anyone been out and about at that time it could have been much worst than it is now.”

“Lot of tree damage, a lot of large limbs down, a couple trees torn up,” Meyer told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.

The winds roared through at about 60 mph, Gerry said.

City officials said it seemed to be a series of storm cells that tore through the southwestern part of Yonkers, CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported.

At the height of the storm, about 1,000 people in Yonkers lost power but the vast majority were back online as of 5 p.m., Burrell reported.

DPW crews were working to get the debris cleaned up as Con Ed worked on the power lines.

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