Breezy Point tornado damages 16 cabanas

James Brady describes a 15-to-20-second tornado that hit the Breezy Point Surf Club while he was disconnecting pipes in the shower. Photo by Christina Santucci
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The tornado that tore through Breezy Point Saturday with winds of up to 70 miles per hour left behind a wake of damage that is still being cleaned up at a seaside beach club.

Bob Ordan, general manager of the Breezy Point Surf Club, said the twister could have been worse and he expects the club to be fully functional again.

“There was some heavy damage, so we’re still busy cleaning and fixing,” said Ordan, who was getting estimates on the bill for the weather’s rampage. “It wasn’t the end of the world, but there is a decent amount of work to do.”

David Stark, a meteorologist with National Weather Service, said the tornado touched down in the westernmost tip of the Rockaway Peninsula for a stretch of about 200 yards and with a width of about 50 yards.

With a maximum estimated wind speed of 70 mph, the twister scored an EF rating of 0 in the Enhanced Fujita scale, Stark said, explaining that this rank was for tornados with speeds ranging from 65 to 85 miles per hour.

“It was pretty quick,” he said.

For the Surf Club patrons, Saturday was the best possible time for severe weather to hit.

“If it would have been last weekend, Labor Day weekend, there would have been thousands of people down here and somebody would have definitely got hurt,” said Steve Fallon, who rents one of about 16 cabanas at the Surf Club that were damaged.

Cabana owners and workers said no one had been injured at the club, at 1 Beach 227th St. In total, the seaside beach club has about 600 cabanas, employees said.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for Queens at about 10:30 a.m.

At the US Open, thousands of tennis fans were evacuated, and one of the men’s semifinal matches was suspended until the following day, USTA officials said.

At about 11 a.m., rain was coming down in Breezy Point Surf Club and only a handful of people were there, patrons said.

James Brady, who has spent the summer at the club for all 47 years of his life, happened to be in the shower, disconnecting pipes for the winter season.

“All of a sudden you just heard the noise,” said Brady. “I heard the electrical pole that is right behind us here, snap and fall down. I heard the cracking of the electricity. The wind, it was in a wind tunnel with things crashing all around. I just put my head down and rode it out.”

The tornado lasted about 15 to 20 seconds, Brady said. When it was finished, he went outside and surveyed the damage.

Several roofs from cabanas were missing, dozens of barbecues were toppled and a part of a wall surrounding the pool had caved in.

In a stretch of sand between the cabanas and a baseball field, debris, including barbecues, chairs and picnic tables, lay in a pile.

Janet Ryan, Brady’s sister, picked through the items, righting a small wagon and returning it to her cabana.

“I think I am most upset because my brother almost got hurt,” she said.

Reach photo editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4589.

Updated 3:50 am, September 13, 2012
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