Violent Queens storm leaves downed trees, power outages, gridlock in its wake

By Christina Santucci

A fast-moving storm tore through northeast Queens Thursday evening, leaving downed power lines and trees strewn in yards and across streets.

In downtown Flushing, the wooden steeple was blown off the top of St. George's Episcopal Church at Main Street  and 39th Avenue and remained scattered in the roadway as firefighters arrived on the scene to clear the debris. Main Street was closed at the intersection just north of Roosevelt Avenue, hampering bus traffic at one of Queens' busiest transit hubs.

Police at the scene said nobody was injured in the steeple's collapse.

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In Bayside, as of 8 p.m., several streets off 41st Avenue were blocked off with police tape and without power, and snapped power lines lay amongst toppled trees. Traffic crawled along Northern and Bell Boulevards.

A firefighter warned passesrby at the corner of 209th Street and 39th Avenue that a power line resting against a car was possibly charging with electricity and to avoid the wire.

Those who saw the storm described a quick period of heavy rain and lightning, as well as fast-moving winds.

“It just got completely dark. You could not see anything,” said Fresh Meadows resident Linda Wong, who was working in the Star Toyota dealership at the corner of Northern Boulevard and 206th Street when the downpour hit.

When asked if the weather had been the worst she had witnessed in Queens, Wong replied, “In all my years of living in Queens, absolutely. Worse than any snowstorm catastrophe.”

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for Queens from 5:35 until 6 p.m., and several Bayside residents speculated that a twister had touched down in northeast Queens.

Over the buzz of a chainsaw on 209th Street, Bayside resident Christen Kalkanis said, “We were taking a nap and then we saw branches fly by.”

Behind her, a 60-foot tree, which had been uprooted in the storm, lay across the backyards of several of her neighbors.

Long Island Rail Road service was suspended in the aftermath of the storm. As of 8:30 p.m. there was still no service between Penn Station and Jamaica and between Penn and Port Washington due to “severe storms,” according to a statement from the LIRR.

There were also heavy delays on the No. 7 train, according to the MTA. Shuttle buses were carrying passengers west from Flushing along the subway's route until about 8:30 p.m., when cheers erupted from the gathering crowd outside the Main Street subway entrance when the first trickle of passengers emerged up the stairway and MTA workers began shouting, "It's open! Trains are running!"

In a moment emblematic of the transit chaos that gripped northeast Queens after the storm passed through, as the subway train arrived in Woodside, the announcer said, "This is 61st Street-Woodside Avenue. You may transfer to the Long Island Rail Road — No, you may NOT transfer to the Long Island Rail Road."

Managing editor Ian MacFarland contributed to this article.

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