- Associated Press - Sunday, September 9, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Damaging storms that spawned tornadoes in New York, darkened tens of thousands of homes in the Washington area and flooded New England streets turned a normal day of rest into a day of cleaning up for many East Coast residents on Sunday.

No serious injuries were reported when a twister hit a beachfront neighborhood Saturday on the edge of New York City and a second, stronger tornado followed moments later about 10 miles away. Residents got advance notice, but still the storm took people by surprise.

“I was showing videos of tornadoes to my 4-year-old on my phone, and two minutes later, it hit,” said Breezy Point neighborhood resident Peter Maloney. “Just like they always say, it sounded like a train.”

The unsettled weather, part of a cold front that crossed over the Eastern Seaboard, toppled trees and power lines and damaged buildings as it passed through. Wind gusts reached 70 mph in some places.

Tornado-like funnel clouds were reported in Fairfax County, Va., and in Prince George’s County, Md., but had not been confirmed by Saturday evening, meteorologist Andy Woodcock of the National Weather Service said.

One person suffered minor injuries during a partial stage collapse at the Rosslyn Jazz Festival in Arlington County, Va., and six people were evacuated from a Washington apartment building when a tree fell on it. Fairfax County officials reported three home cave-ins because of downed trees, a water rescue on the Potomac River and dozens of electrical wires down.

By Sunday morning, about 15,000 customers were without electricity in Northern Virginia, according to Dominion Virginia Power. Pepco reported outages to more than 5,000 customers in the District of Columbia and Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. BGE reported about 1,500 outages, most in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.

In New York City, videos taken by bystanders showed a funnel sucking up water, then sand, and then small pieces of buildings as the first tornado moved through the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens.

At the Breezy Point Surf Club, the tornado ripped the roofs off rows of cabanas, scattered deck chairs and left a heavy metal barbecue and propane tank sitting in the middle of a softball field, at least 100 yards from any home.

“It picked up picnic benches. It picked up Dumpsters,” said the club’s general manager, Thomas Sullivan.

In the storm’s wake, broken flower pots, knocked-down fences and smashed windows littered the community of seaside bungalows. Half an hour later, the weather was beautiful, but Mr. Sullivan had to close the club to clean up the damage.

The roof of Bob O’Hara’s cabana was torn off, leaving tubes of sunscreen, broken beer bottles and an old TV set exposed to the elements.

“We got a new sunroof,” said Mr. O’Hara, who has spent summer weekends at the Breezy Point club for his entire 52 years. “The TV was getting thrown out anyway,” he added.

The second twister hit to the northwest, in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, but also near the water, about seven minutes later. The National Weather Service said winds were up to 110 miles per hour, and several homes and trees were damaged.

Tornadoes are traditionally rare in the New York City area, but they have occurred with regularity in recent years. A small tornado uprooted trees on Long Island last month.

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