After the tornado in Brooklyn

9 08 2007

– The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in Brooklyn and now the cleanup is ahead.

Steamy, not weather led to the dangerous storms that broke out very early Wednesday morning and soaked the tri-state area with three inches of rain in just a couple of hours.Official tornado records have been kept since 1950, and never was Brooklyn on them until just after 6:30 a.m. when one struck Bay Ridge.

Workers at Bay Ridge Nissan arrived at the dealership and found disaster. Signs were blown away, the roof pulled apart and windows shattered.

“Part of the roof was on top of the cars,” porter Anthony Savinon said. “The whole front was a mess, trees blocked the intersection, people came out wondering what happened.”

From the air it is obvious this was no ordinary storm. And to the ear, it was clear too that something was going on. Residents in Bay Ridge woke to the sound of a powerful tornado bearing down on their neighborhood. One said it sounded like a freight train, and left them afraid to go outside. Another described bricks flying off the roof and hitting cars.

The EF-2 tornado touched down around 6:30 this morning. The path began on Bay Ridge Avenue between 3rd and 4th and continued east northeast to 68th Street where 11 homes sustained roof damage.

The twister then lifted over a car dealership at 66th and Fifth, tearing off its roof, only to return to the ground near 6th Avenue.

Lanie Mastellone survived quite a scare saying, “My dining room ceiling gave way and the light fixture hit the table and everything. There was glass and everything just crashed.”

Late Wednesday afternoon investigators with the National Weather Service determined it was a tornado because of the circular pattern of the damage. The tornado was declared an EF-2 based on the extent of the structural damage.

Winds were estimated to be from 111 miles an hour up to 135. Such powerful wind speed is comparable to a category three hurricane — like hurricane Gene in 2004.

Though the storm was worst there, it affected millions more. From Brooklyn to Queens to Staten Island, large trees and utility poles cracked like toothpicks. Limbs crashed down on cars and homes, taking out electrical service and ripping meters. By nightfall, nearly everyone had their power back but thousands of homes and businesses were affected during the day.

Getting around was a nightmare for so many, with subway tracks flooded, trains delayed and roads impassible. Tens of thousands had to find a new way to work, some just gave up on mass transit or the hope of catching a cab and started walking.

The storm proved deadly for a 23-year-old woman whose vehicle was rear-ended when she got stuck on the Staten Island Expressway near the Bradley Avenue exit just before 5 a.m.

“A car got stuck in an underpass, and another car came along and hit hers,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference Wednesday.

Officials say her car was struck by 58-year-old Brooklyn resident Yahov Rainshtein. The force of collision apparently sparked a fire. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Clearly, if we didn’t have that rainstorm she wouldn’t be there, so that’s one fatality due to the very heavy rains,” Bloomberg said.

Rainshtein was charged with driving with a suspended license.

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