Violent storm takes down trees

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A 10-minute storm last Thursday left days worth of cleanup for Little Neck and Douglaston residents with streets covered in branches, broken trees and telephone poles.

The storm, which began mid-afternoon and lasted a mere 10 minutes, knocked down trees onto homes and streets and left branches strewn throughout northeast Queens. Service on the Port Washington line of the Long Island Rail Road was halted east of Bayside because of downed trees on the tracks and service was interrupted along the length of the route into Penn Station.

Residents along roadways such as Westmoreland Street in Little Neck and Manor Road in Douglaston were still dealing with the storm’s aftermath Friday afternoon, while other streets had not yet been completely cleaned Monday. Some of them had lost power during the downpour, leaving them with no air conditioning during the soaring 90-degree temperatures.

“It looks like a war zone,” said Mark Siver, a resident of Manor Road, Friday. “There are trees down on every block. You know the city. It could take them a year to clean up.”

Cleanup crews removed large tree limbs from residential neighborhoods across Little Neck, while several Douglaston residents were meeting with insurance adjusters Friday morning. A number of streets had been blocked as Con Edison trucks restored power or damaged trees were taken down.

Several homes in the neighborhoods appeared to have been extremely damaged after large trees landed on their roofs, vehicles or doorsteps.

The Little Neck Parkway was temporarily closed last Thursday following the storm, while more than 2,000 Con Ed customers lost power in the borough.

One Douglaston resident said he had a close call while riding his bicycle home during the storm.

“I was riding home when a tree and some power lines fell down in front of me,” said Thomas Flannigan of Douglaston.

Another resident from the neighborhood who did not want to be named said her home’s siding, roof and front stoop needed to be fixed after a large tree crashed onto her property.

“I have no idea how long it will take to clean up,” she said. “When I called the [city] Parks Department, they just took a report.”

Siver said Douglaston residents have long been calling on the city to remove some of the community’s trees, which are primarily silver maples that date back to the 1920s.

“We have been trying to get the city to take them down because many are hollowed out,” he said. “Somebody is going to die if they do not do their jobs. These trees have been falling down since the 1970s. The city tells us as long as they have leaves, they are alive.”

City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said the city Parks Department had brought in private contractors to clean up badly damaged sections of his district, such as 40th Avenue in Douglaston.

“They’ve cleared all the trees so they are not blocking streets,” he said Tuesday. “But they have to be chipped and carted away.”

He said he hoped the cleanup would be complete by the week’s end. The city set up a command post at Westmoreland Street and 40th Avenue, where a number of trees came crashing down.

Susan Macinick, chief of Community Board 11’s CERT team, wrote a letter to the board saying she was disappointed that CERT was not called upon to assist in the cleanup. But Halloran said the city contended that it did not need the CERT team’s help.

Jerry Iannece, CB 11’s chairman, said Douglaston received the brunt of last week’s storm because the neighborhood’s old trees could not withstand its 60- to 100-mile-per-hour winds.

“The city did a fairly good job of clearing everything,” he said. “It was one of those acts of God where the elements overtook the trees. If the ground is saturated, the trees will come down with a big burst of wind.”

The LIRR provided school buses for riders traveling east beyond Bayside last Thursday evening, but the trips took hours in some cases as the drivers dodged downed power lines and trees in eastern Queens and Nassau.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 5:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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