Tornado In Brooklyn, NY!

Tornado, storm wreaks havoc in BROOKLYN,NY

BY NEWSDAY and amNEWYORK STAFF

August 9, 2007

Torrential rains and a tornado packing 135-mph winds tore through the city Wednesday morning, ripping apart homes, crippling the subway system and forcing stranded commuters to walk for hours in stifling heat.

Just as the morning rush began, the storm dumped 3.5 inches of rain across the city in barely two hours, whipped up a twister in Brooklyn and unleashed flash floods that led to the death of a Staten Island woman whose car got stuck on a submerged highway and was hit by another vehicle.

Roofs were pulled off brick row houses in Sunset Park and a car dealership in Bay Ridge. Towering, hundred-year-old trees snapped at their roots. A 15-foot by 20-foot stained glass window in a church was reduced to a pile of colorful shards on the sidewalk.

At least 30 families sought shelter at a Red Cross center set up at an elementary school in Bay Ridge. Water in some subway stations along Queens Boulevard reached as high as platforms. More than 70 buildings were damaged, 20 of them so badly they were deemed uninhabitable.

“Never would I imagine there would be a tornado,” said David Aja-Sigmon, pastor of the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Bay Ridge as he swept up the remnants of the stained glass window.

“I thought I left that back in the Midwest.”

As of Wednesday night’s rush hour, most subway service had been restored with delays, except in Queens, where the F train was traveling only as far as Forest Hills and V train service was suspended at Second Avenue.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Transit Authority said Wednesday night the agency expected normal subway service in time for Thursday morning’s rush.

The tornado started on Bay Ridge Avenue, between Third and Fourth avenues, and was probably moving at speeds of 111- to 135-mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Marie Mastellone, 44, who lives on the hard-hit block of 58th Street in Sunset Park, described a pre-dawn dash from her home as ceilings collapsed behind her.

“They were going one at a time,” she said. “I was in the back of my house and I started going forward … and everything started to fall. When I stepped out, I had no roof.”

The city set up a mobile command center in Sunset Park, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg called New Yorkers “resilient,” but noted that the timing and ferocity of the storm proved an especially destructive combination.

“I don’t know that God had rush hour in mind when this storm hit,” Bloomberg said.

Yet for hours after the storm cleared, the MTA continued to struggle with the barrage of water, and with criticism from commuters and city officials that it is increasingly unable to handle inclement weather without shutting down wide swaths of the system.

“I think it’s pretty scary that the city can’t function when it rains,” said Nancy Silberger, 48, a legal secretary from Lynbrook, whose regular Long Island Rail Road train home last night was canceled.

Veronica Cruz cooled her heels on a soupy subway platform at 34th Street-Penn Station Wednesday afternoon, hoping to catch a train into Elmhurst, where she works as a clerk.

“This is outrageous,” said Cruz, who is pregnant and lives on the Lower East Side. “Every time there’s flooding in Queens, nothing works.”

Three times in the last seven months, including as recently as July 18, heavy rains have caused significant subway delays and disruptions.

MTA Chairman Elliot “Lee” Sander said that the subway system’s pumps can handle up to 1.5 inches of rain in an hour, but that Wednesday’s storm came too fast, and with little warning.

“We were faced with an unusual and intense confluence of events,” Sander said at a news conference Wednesday with Gov. Eliot Spitzer. “The storm took us by surprise because it was not predicted by the National Weather Service.”

Spitzer said he did not believe the flooding problem was caused by the MTA ignoring routine maintenance, but said he was concerned enough to ask the agency to study the issue and report back to him within 30 days.

“This is a problem of a recurring nature,” the governor said. “We have a design issue that we have to think about. … Whenever there’s a system failure, we’re not satisfied. The question is: Why was there a system failure? Can we address it?”

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~ by redspyda on August 9, 2007.

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