Residents of several New York City neighborhoods on Thursday were cleaning up after a rare tornado a day earlier touched down several times, uprooting trees and damaging homes and vehicles.
The National Weather Service said a tornado touched down several times in Staten Island and in Brooklyn, where winds downed trees, tore off roofs and wrapped signs around posts. At least 40 homes were damaged.
The tornado was classified as an F2, with wind speeds reaching up to 135 mph. It touched down in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge neighborhood just after 6:30 a.m. and was the first tornado to land in Brooklyn since the weather service began keeping records in 1960. It was the sixth on record to hit New York City.
Much of the mess had been mopped up by early Thursday, but the region faced the possibility of more storms within a day.
Cooler air was expected to swoop from Canada into New England on Thursday as a low pressure system exits the Northeast.
Rain was forecast for the Great Lakes, Upper Mississippi Valley, and Ohio Valley. The system also was expected to bring showers to southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic in the afternoon and evening.
Sudden rain, lots of chaos
The New York storm also dumped three inches of rain in three hours, bringing the nation's largest mass transit system to its knees.
Subway tracks were swamped, buses were overwhelmed and commuter trains were held up for hours because of flooding Wednesday. Some roads became waterways, and one woman was killed in a car accident during the storm.
The weather also created problems for the region's airports, where delays of up to an hour were reported, and thousands of people throughout the region lost electricity for part of the day.
Wednesday's storm hit just before dawn. By rush hour, pumping stations became overwhelmed, and the subway system was virtually paralyzed. Bedlam resulted from too much rain, too fast; some suburban commuters spent half the day just getting to work. Crews worked feverishly to pump out the subways, but it took until the evening rush hour to get most of the system up to speed.
The washout marked the third time in seven months that the subways were disrupted by rain.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority engineers were asked to report back to Gov. Eliot Spitzer within 30 days with suggestions about how to deal with the flooding.
"One big rain, and it all falls apart," Ruby Russell, 64, said as she sat waiting on a train in Brooklyn around 9 a.m. Wednesday. She had been trying to get to Manhattan for three hours.
The National Weather Service said a tropical air mass dumped an extraordinary amount of rain in a short period of time. The most was recorded between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., with 2.5 inches falling on Central Park and almost 3.5 on Kennedy International Airport.
Public officials called for improvements in the drainage system after a similar rain-related shutdown in 1999, and the MTA made some changes after another round of paralyzing tunnel floods in 2004, when the remnants of Hurricane Frances washed out the subways for hours.