By Rich Bockmann
A violent thunderstorm rolled across Queens Monday afternoon that intensified as it reached the borough’s northeast section, resulting in property damage from winds and hail as well as traffic delays as rush hour began.
Residents from Glen Oaks to Whitestone saw balls of hail that measured up to 3 inches in diameter fall from the sky, pounding buildings and vehicles.
Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op, said the storm smashed potted plants and small glass tables and brought down several large trees in a portion of his neighborhood.
“I’ve never seen hail that big in New York before,” he said. “It was as if somebody had a case of baseballs and dropped them on the lawn.
Friedrich said he had to place an emergency call to a tree service Monday evening to clean up large trees that had been knocked down, and Tuesday morning maintenance crews were picking up the rest.
Glen Oaks Village is split into two sections about a mile apart — the northeast section abutting the North Shore Towers golf course and a smaller section to the southwest near the Cross Island Parkway. Friedrich said the northern section was pummelled by hail, but the southern section was left relatively unscathed.
“It was very localized,” he said.
Tim Morrin, a spokesman for the National Weather Service, estimated winds in the area reached up to 30 to 40 miles per hour, strong enough to rip the roots of large, leafy trees from the ground.
“The hail was the severe weather element of this storm,” he said. “It’s very unusual to have hail that size — up to 3 inches.”
Morrin said unusually low temperatures in the upper levels of the atmosphere were the main contributing factor to the hail.
As rush hour began, the storm caused delays on roads and highways. A number of drivers caught in traffic traveling west on the Cross Island Parkway either turned around or drove in reverse up the on-ramp near the Whitestone Bridge in order to avoid the congestion.
Long Island Railroad service was running an hour late on the Port Washington line and some trains were canceled altogether.
A spokesman for City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said his office had received a handful of calls from Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston and the surrounding neighborhoods in the district about small pockets of power outages. He said he had not heard of any injuries.
“It was insane. It just came out of nowhere. All of a sudden there was this loud thumping noise,” said Devon O’Connor, founding president of the Welcome to Whitestone Commercial and Residential Civic Association. “The wild thing was just after the hail it was sunny again.”
O’Connor said he was inside his home as it began to rain, when the sound of hail falling drew his attention. He looked outside and watched as hail fell for 15 minutes and winds knocked trees down, scattering leaves about the neighborhood.
Water flooded his basement and the stretch of 152nd Street in front of his home. O’Connor, who frequently kayaks with his brother, Logan, said he saw it as an opportunity to have a little fun.
“Water got so high and was so deep I got my kayak out and floated down the street for two or three houses down,” he said. “Even though it did a lot of damage, I had a blast.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.