New York Assesses Violent Storm’s Toll


New York City struggled to recover Friday from a fierce storm that roared through Thursday night, throwing down trees like sticks, crippling debris-strewn neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, disrupting commuter rail service and killing at least one person.

Long Island Rail Road officials said that crews were working through the night to remove debris from tracks, and they hoped to have most service restored for the morning rush hour Friday, but warned of scattered delays, and they said service would continue to be suspended on the Port Washington line. City officials said they would focus Friday on cleaning up the debris from the storm — particularly downed tree limbs in many parts of the city – but they cautioned they were still trying to determine the scope of the task.

The storm and its aftereffects bore many of the hallmarks of a tornado, with the tops of countless trees sheared off and roofs blown off houses, and National Weather Service officials said they would work Friday to determine whether it should be classified as one.

The fast-moving storm, with winds estimated at 60 to 80 miles an hour, caused widespread damage. There were numerous reports of small fires, power failures and damage to homes, stores and vehicles.

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, a community group in Middle Village, Queens, somberly looked over the damage as he walked through the neighborhood.

“It almost brought me to tears,” Mr. Holden said. “Every block, two, three trees are down into houses, smashed into cars. There’s gridlock. There’s debris everywhere.”

The winds ripped some trees out of sidewalks and blew them 30 to 40 feet, he said, knocking out electricity as they landed on power lines.

“It wasn’t the rain, but there was tremendous wind,” he said. “It didn’t last very long. A few minutes, it seemed like.”

A woman was killed when a tree fell on her car about 6:50 p.m. on the Grand Central Parkway near Jewel Avenue in Queens. The police said the woman, whom they identified as Iline Leuakis, 30, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., had pulled her car, a 2010 Lexus sedan, to the side of the parkway. They said a passenger, a 60-year-old man, had minor injuries.

Trees were down on every street in the adjacent neighborhood, blocking traffic and preventing residents from getting in or out of their homes.

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that he expected Consolidated Edison to restore power by Friday morning to most homes that had lost it. Just after midnight, ConEd reported on its website that approximately 34,000 customers, mostly in Queens and Staten Island, were without power.

The worst of the storm started about 5 p.m., as a warm front from the south approached New York City. A line of thunderstorms moved through, intensifying as they reached the shore, causing winds to rotate within a small area, a characteristic that prompts a tornado warning, according to John Murray, a National Weather Service meteorologist. The storm tore through Staten Island, then Brooklyn, hitting Park Slope and Bedford-Stuyvesant hard. It then moved into Queens, striking strongly at Middle Village, Forest Hills and Bayside.

Bus and car traffic was reported at a standstill through much of the hardest-hit areas.

Mayor Bloomberg surveyed storm damage at 111th Street and 52nd Avenue in Corona, Queens, before a planned event at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. He said that while there might have been some damage to school buildings, he expected all schools to be open on Friday.

“While it may be an act of God, it doesn’t make it any easier for us,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “The good news is that most people were safe, just annoyed — traffic being bad, or a tree coming down in their yard.”

Fallen trees disrupted Long Island Rail Road service in and out of the city, forcing officials to close down service from Pennsylvania Station on the L.I.R.R. because of overcrowding there. Commuters whose trains home were canceled flooded into the subway seeking other routes to Queens.

In addition to the suspension of L.I.R.R. service, transit officials halted service Thursday night on the busy No. 7 subway line, which runs aboveground in northern Queens, for a couple of hours.

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