From the Atlantic Ocean to the East River and the Long Island Sound, Queens was battered with heavy wind and rain as the brunt of Tropical Storm Irene hit the area early Sunday morning. Now residents are doing what they can to pick up the pieces.
“Between the storm and the high tide everything’s ruined,” said 69-year-old George Zach, who was one of many Broad Channel residents whose basement flooded during the storm.
Irene had downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm by the time it hit Queens, but was still strong enough to decimate two bungalows and flood basements in Broad Channel. The storm also caused damage to trees and cars throughout the borough.
It was the first time New York City had ever ordered a mandatory evacuation in its lowest elevations, and public transit was completely halted for the first time since 9/11.
In Irene’s wake, at least 10 people were killed in six states, according to the New York Times, though no storm-related deaths in New York City have yet been reported. As a Category 1, the storm hit North America at Cape Lookout, N.C. Saturday morning, drifted out to the ocean and made landfall again near Egg Inlet, N.J. early Sunday morning before eventually reaching the city as a tropical storm.
Broad Channel was one of the hardest hit Queens neighborhoods. Many residents said their basements had been flooded when the high tide came in between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Two bungalows that could only be reached by a pier off of 12th Road that had lost a fair amount of planks in the storm were destroyed, leaving a pile of wood and personal items floating in the water, and a "Private Property, No Trespassing" sign on top of the pier.
The tide had also temporarily flooded parts of the Rockaways, leaving sand that had been caked into mud along the boardwalk and beyond. “Here it was very messy,” said 32-year-old Far Rockaway resident Marta Popiolek.
Mainland Queens was not free from Irene’s wrath. The East River caused flooding on some streets and some businesses in Long Island City near Hunter’s Point. Shore Boulevard between the Triborough (Robert F. Kennedy) and Hellgate bridges also flooded.
“I was really nervous last night,” said Astoria resident Andre Legaspi, 29, who was one of many who came to Astoria Park Sunday afternoon, “but I’m really glad those warnings came out. Better to over-prepare.”
A 30-foot-tall tree fell onto Patrica Rabaglia's home and Cadillac near the corner of Bayside Avenue and 148th Street in North Flushing early this morning. The tree crushed the windshield in the car. No one was hurt in the house, Rabaglia said.
"I heard a thud and I thought it was somebody falling out of bed," she said of a noise at about 4 a.m. "I think a tornado had something to do with the tree coming down."
Several other large trees were felled on surrounding blocks.
In Bayside, Ira Weiner said a tree about 15 feet tall landed on his home on Corporal Kennedy Street near 26th Avenue during the night. "When I woke up this morning, it was already down," he said of the tree, which rested on -- but had not broken through -- his front window.
To the west, in College Point, Tara Shahgholi could do nothing to stop a massive tree from collapsing onto her sport-utility vehicle parked along College Place.
“The tree was on fire,” said Shahgholi, whose 7-year-old son alerted her early Sunday morning of the flaming tree across the street from her home near 9th Road and College Place. “My son said he heard a crack and we looked out on the balcony and saw the fire.”
Emergency crews arrived at the scene around 4 a.m., Shahgholi said, but could do nothing and left. Around 7 a.m. Shahgholi said the tree start to fall, bringing down power lines and snapping a utility pole as it collapsed. Several other trees around the block had fallen, breaking utility poles in two and crushing at least one other vehicle.
Around 11 a.m. Sunday, a crew from Lewis Tree Service, contracted by utility company Con Edison, arrived to College Place to secure the area.
Pat Monaco, a ground worker with the tree service, setup roadblocks and taped off the area until power crews could arrive.
Monaco, who had spent time cleaning up fallen trees and debris after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, urged residents not to pile debris onto downed lines as they cleaned up their property. “It only delays the process to restore power.”
Con Edison reported at 8:30 p.m. Sunday that more than 20,000 customers in Jamaica and about 5,300 in Flushing did not have power. Complete restoration of electricity may not occur until Tuesday night, the utility company estimated.
Public transit around the city restarted Sunday afternoon after being suspended Saturday beginning at noon. MTA bus service began restoration at 4:30 p.m. Transit workers were still assessing subway service Sunday.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports will be accepting arrivals and departures again beginning at 7 a.m. Monday.
In a statement issued Sunday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg indicated commuter service may be limited Monday morning but government offices will be open and city employees should report to work.
“Because of yesterday’s storm and its lingering effects, all New Yorkers should exercise caution and allow extra time for travel on Monday morning,” the mayor said in the statement.
Colin DeVries contributed to this report.
©2011 Community News Group
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