NEW YORK – Two tornadoes struck the outer edges of New York City on Saturday, hurling debris into the air and knocking out power but causing no serious injuries among startled residents accustomed to thinking of twisters as a Midwestern phenomenon.
The first hit a beachfront neighborhood and the second, stronger tornado followed moments later about 10 miles away.
Videos taken by bystanders showed a funnel cloud sucking up water, then sand, and then small pieces of buildings, as the first moved through the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens.
The second hit to the northwest, in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn 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.
Residents had advance notice. The weather service had issued a tornado warning for Queens and Brooklyn at around 10:40 a.m. The storm took people by surprise anyway when it struck about 20 minutes later.
“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.”
In the storm’s wake, the community of seaside bungalows was littered with broken flowerpots, knocked-down fences and smashed windows.
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 nearby home.
“It picked up picnic benches. It picked up Dumpsters,” said the club’s general manager, Thomas Sullivan.
Half an hour later the weather was beautiful, but he had to close the club to clean up the damage.
The second tornado tore through parts of Brooklyn with strong winds, causing structural damage to several homes and felling trees.
The tornado struck as part of a line of storms that were expected to bring damaging winds, hail, heavy rain and possibly more tornadoes throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Saturday.
Across New York state, in Buffalo, strong winds from a broad front of thunderstorms blew roofing off some buildings and sent bricks falling into the street. More than 6,000 customers were without power in East in Warren County, another 1,500 or so were without power in other areas upstate, and about 3,000 customers in the Hudson Valley were affected.