Torrential rain blamed for at least one death flooded subways and rail lines and delayed flights early Wednesday at New York’s three major airports and thousands of commuters were stranded for two hours or more.
At least one tornado, wind and heavy rain toppled trees onto cars and streets, caused scattered power outages and left some shops shuttered and businesses struggling with shortages of workers. The twister tore off the roof of a Nissan car dealership and left 16 homes with moderate to severe roof damage.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said officers had to use crowd-control tactics to keep the peace. Groups of officers directed commuters from subway stations where trains weren’t running and at bus stops jammed with people jostling to get on board.
A woman who got stuck in an underpass was killed when her car was struck by another vehicle, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. The mayor said buildings were damaged in parts of Brooklyn, including a roof ripped off a church.
“I don’t know that God had rush hour in mind when the storms hit,” Bloomberg said at news conference in a Brooklyn neighborhood. The National Weather Service later confirmed a tornado had touched down.
The tornado's winds reached speeds of between 111 mph and 135 mph, the National Weather Service reported. The tornado's path started around New York's Bay Ridge area. It traveled around two miles through Brooklyn.
Flooded transit lines
All subway lines in the city experienced delays or diversions, and some rail lines to Grand Central Terminal and some rail routes from New Jersey into Manhattan were shut down for more than an hour.
“We are very much tied to mass transit, which is a system that is obviously vulnerable to natural events,” Bloomberg said.
Passengers on one train to Grand Central were told they had to get off at a station in the Bronx and walk to a nearby subway station. Some trudged through the streets in drenched business suits, only to be told at the subway that those trains weren’t running either.
Some commuters were understanding.
“It’s nobody’s fault. You see how hard the rain was coming down,” said Mark Edwards, who tried to get on a subway in Brooklyn only to find that the line was flooded.
Others wondered how a strong but hardly record-breaking rainstorm could nearly bring the city to a halt.
“The weather is bad enough,” said Vanessa Santiago. “But now I have to worry about getting into trouble for being late to work.”