- Associated Press - Friday, September 17, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — Residents, utility crews and railroad workers cleaned up debris Friday after a brief but fierce storm barreled through New York City, tearing up trees, stripping roofs from homes, disrupting train service and killing at least one person.

The National Weather Service planned to spend the day investigating whether a tornado touched down Thursday evening during the storm. Tornado warnings had been issued for Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

Officials at Long Island Rail Road, the nation’s largest commuter rail line, said crews worked through the night to clear tracks of fallen trees, which caused service to be suspended temporarily between Penn Station in Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens. Full service was restored around 5 a.m. Friday. Some early-morning rush hour service on the LIRR’s Port Washington branch was affected before the trains began running again on Friday.

Nearly 26,000 customers remained without power on Friday, Consolidated Edison spokeswoman Elizabeth Clark said. She said hardest hit was Queens, with 24,700 outages. At the height of the storm, a total of 37,000 customers were without power. Crews would be working to restore power throughout the day, she said.


A woman was killed when a tree fell on a car parked on a road in Queens. Driver Iline Levakis, 30, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., was pronounced dead at the scene and a 60-year-old passenger suffered minor injuries, police said. Numerous minor injuries were reported elsewhere.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it “tragic” and “scary” and said a lot of other people had near-misses with falling trees.

“Our parks suffered yesterday. A number of the parks lost lots of trees,” he said Friday on WOR Radio.

Getting around parts of the city Thursday night was difficult for even the mayor.

“Every street we turned, there were trees down, power lines down,” he said.

Residents were awed by the power of the swift storm.

“A huge tree limb, like 25 feet long, flew right up the street, up the hill and stopped in the middle of the air 50 feet 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. The can was launched way, way over there,” he said, pointing at a building about 120 feet away where a metal garbage can lay flattened.

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 58-year-old Ruby Ellis, who was doing dishes in her top-floor kitchen when the storm hit. “After the roof went up, then all the rain came down and I had a flood.”

A neighbor in an adjacent building, Julian Amy, said he was sitting in his first-floor apartment when the storm barreled down his street. “I just heard a loud boom,” the 33-year-old said. “I thought it was a truck accident.”

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