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Storm rips up NY boroughs

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Storm rips up NY boroughs

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NEW YORK – A brief but vicious storm that churned through New York City left a 14-mile path of destruction from Brooklyn to Queens, toppling trees, peeling away roofs and killing a woman in a car who had just swapped seats with her husband.
The National Weather Service sought yesterday to determine whether the fury of wind and rain that hit the previous evening was a tornado. City officials said the storm hopped across New York Harbor from Staten Island and barrelled uninterrupted from Park Slope in Brooklyn all the way to the Bayside neighbourhood in Queens.
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe estimated the storm destroyed more than 1 000 trees. He said forestry experts were finding damage patterns consistent with twisting winds, rather than more typical sideways winds.
“This is a very brief storm that was extremely destructive,” he said.
The storm was part of a line that rippled across much of the Northeast before completing its run in New York City during the Thursday evening rush hour in a matter of minutes. It caught nearly everyone off guard, including commuters heading home and parents picking up children from after-school activities.
It snapped trees and scattered them like bowling pins, downing power lines and crushing vehicles, including a car in Queens where Iline Levakis and her husband, Billy Levakis were parked. The couple, from Pennsylvania, had just switched seats in the car, said a former business partner, Peter Markos.
She was killed; he survived.
“There are lots of stories of people who came very close to being hit by a big tree and killed, but fortunately there was only one,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday. “And that one was really tragic.”
Investigators yesterday were mapping out the width and intensity of the storm to determine whether a tornado touched down, said Kyle Struckmann, a National Weather Service meteorologist. The probe included surveying the aftermath by helicopter.
Stunned residents sifted through the debris yesterday, and utility crews worked to restore power in blacked-out neighbourhoods. The number of customers without power peaked at 37 000, but that gradually improved yesterday. About 29,000 customers, mostly in Queens, had no power midday yesterday.
On a badly hit Brooklyn block of 1890s brownstones in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood, the storm swept away parts of rooftops on at least six homes. (AP)