Weather officials confirmed Friday night that two tornadoes and a macroburst touched down in New York City the previous day, as residents citywide continue to survey damage and local lawmakers build their case for FEMA funding.
The National Weather Service said that the first EF0 tornado touched down in Park Slope, Brooklyn with winds of 80 mph after 5 p.m. Thursday and traveled two miles northeast.
The second EF1 tornado touched down about 2.5 miles south of Flushing, Queens and traveled north to Bayside with winds of up to 100 mph, before lifting over the waters. Middle Village and Forest Hills, Queens were the neighborhoods hit hardest.
The macroburst, which is a sudden acceleration of wind coming out of a fast-moving storm that's more than 2.5 miles long, created the most damage in Queens, moving through Forest Hills and Middle Village with winds up to 125 mph.
"The [macroburst's] actual width upon touchdown was on the order of about 1.5 miles wide and the damage path that spread out made a cone of up to five miles wide," said Gary Conte of the National Weather Service.
The National Weather Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Office of Emergency Management conducted flyovers and land surveys in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens before coming to its conclusions.
The Bronx had a tornado in July and a tornado touched down in Brooklyn and Staten Island back in 2007.
Before Thursday, only eight tornadoes had hit New York City since 1950, according to the National Weather Service.
City Homeowners Urged To Document Damage
Earlier Friday, city, state and federal officials held a press conference in the devastated MacDonald Park in Forest Hills, Queens this afternoon to ask Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island homeowners to take photos and detail all the damage to their property to 311.
The lawmakers said the documented damage could convince the state and federal governments to declare parts of the city a disaster area, so it could qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and low-interest loans to small businesses damaged in the storm.
“It’s not going to rain pennies from heaven. If you had your car smashed, you better hope your insurance policy’s taking care of it. If you have damage to your home, you have to hope that your homeowner’s policy takes care of it," said Congressman Anthony Weiner. "What we’re trying to do here today is to try to do the best we can to get our communities back and livable again.
Officials are also urging New Yorkers who need shelter or supplies to receive aid from the American Red Cross and the OEM.
"We need to have not only those 311 calls come in, but photographs be taken. Our council district office has been working with several of our religious groups who are right now struggling because they have no power," said Queens Councilman Daniel Halloran.
Governor David Paterson said Friday he offered Mayor Michael Bloomberg assistance from state agencies to help in the cleanup effort and spoke to FEMA about providing federal aid.
"The severity of the storm may have caught us by surprise, but New Yorkers are a resilient people and we will get through this ordeal together," said the governor.
FEMA officials will be in Brooklyn and Queens this weekend to survey the damage.
As of 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Consolidated Edison said more than 8,600 customers remained without power, and all but 63 of them are located in Queens. Flushing, Maspeth and Rego Park are the Queens neighborhoods currently with the most outages.
An estimated 45,000 customers lost power during the storm.
The utility has more than 250 crews working to restore service. It predicts that most service should be restored Saturday night and all restored by 11 p.m. Sunday.
In the meantime, Con Ed is distributing dry ice in in Queens again on Saturday, to help people keep their food from spoiling until power is restored
Dry ice will be handed out until 8 p.m. at Cunningham Park by Union Turnpike and 195th Street, Juniper Valley Park at Juniper Boulevard South and 80th Street, and Memorial Park at 149th Street and 25th Avenue.
Customer service vans and personnel will also be at each location to answer questions.
Con Ed is reminding customers to avoid opening freezers to see if food is still frozen. The company says fully loaded freezers will keep food from thawing for up to 48 hours.
New Yorkers without power are reminded to turn at least one light switch to the "on" position so you know when power has been restored.
For more information on the dry ice distribution or to report any outages, contact Con Ed at 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633).
The storm killed one woman when a tree came crashing down on her car along the Grand Central Parkway. She was identified as 30-year-old Aline Levakis of Pennsylvania. A 60-year-old male passenger suffered minor injuries.
Video shot by a Park Slope resident shows some rotation in the storm as the skies darkened. Funnel clouds were also reported in Queens and on Staten Island.
The powerful winds snapped trees like twigs, sending them crashing down onto cars and power lines, and lifted roofs off of buildings.
Officials warn New Yorkers not to touch downed wires and to call 911 if the wires are exposed.
"We always emphasize to people that if you see downed electrical wires do not go near them," said Allan Drury of Con Ed. "Treat them as if they are live, by all means do not try to touch them or move them with your hands or any object, and always keep in mind wires can be hidden from you by tree limbs and leaves."
Thursday's storm ripped the roof off a home on Quincy Street at Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Several other homes in the neighborhood also have torn roofs and collapsed walls.
Department of Buildings officials were assessing damage to the structures on Friday.
"These six brownstones, that were four family buildings, the roofs actually peeled off away from the structures," said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. "The structure is intact but the roof is gone, and you'll find the remnants across the street and around the block."
"There's a lot of roofs we just got to patch up tonight. Just everything's got to be sealed up, waterproofed. We're going to be here late," said roofer Chris Rosino.
Nearby, a house at 1633 Pacific Street that was already in disrepair will have to be torn down, as it is now leaning and unsafe.
Residents in neighboring buildings have been evacuated.
The wind also burst windows and ripped out insulation at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Ridgewood, Queens.
Police cars and ambulances raced to the hospital's entrance to help, but no one was seriously hurt.
Crews spent the day working to secure the dangling pieces of metal.
Many neighborhoods in Queens were damaged by fallen trees, and the borough's parks commissioner said her department was already behind in clean-up efforts due to two previous storms before the Thursday twisters.
In Park Slope, Brooklyn, a neighborhood known for its tree-lined streets, it will be decades before things return to normal.
Many of the trees have been knocked down or torn apart.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a Park Slope resident, said the landscape of the neighborhood has been forever changed.
"Some of these trees have been growing for generations," said de Blasio. "I've seen hundreds of trees down, walking around today, and driving around last night. So it's going to change things, hopefully we can make sure new trees will be planted but it's not going to be the same thing, some of these trees were majestic."
On Staten Island, many residents took to cleaning up the storm's mess themselves.
Chainsaws were revved up and ready to go in West Brighton, Staten Island, after last night's powerful winds knocked down trees, some of which crashed into homes and took down power lines.
Many Trees Felled, Weakened
The Parks Department says it is working with Con Edison to clean up downed trees so power can be restored and roads reopened. Parks officials said they received 4,000 calls in 24 hours and urged New Yorkers not to clear trees on their own, since downed trees can weigh up to several tons.
They say there was a straight line of damage to foliage through Park Slope, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick in Brooklyn and from Ridgewood to Bayside in Queens. There was also heavy damage in Port Richmond, Livingston and West Brighton in Staten Island's North Shore and Tottenville in the borough's South Shore.
Parks officials say they are focusing on the areas where damage is threatening public safety first. They say there are hundreds of crews in the field that will get to everything eventually, but they're asking the public to be patient.
"Mother Nature's doing something very odd to us this year," said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. "We did have a very rough spring and summer with tree damages and storms and this one is just really big, so I think people need to be patient and understand it's not just what the department can do, it's what acts of God do to us, to put us in these situations. its going to take a long time to clean up isn't it? We're looking at days to access, and then weeks to get it over with."
For more information on how to aid the Parks Department's clean-up efforts, visit www.nycservice.org.
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