Tornado hits Whitestone and College Point, leaving fallen trees, power lines and debris in its wake

Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS

Residents in Whitestone and College Point experienced a tornado late on Thursday night that left evidence of its presence throughout the streets.

The National Weather Service (NWS) sent out a tornado warning to Queens and Bronx residents around 10 p.m. on Aug. 2. According to a report, the NWS would be conducting a preliminary storm survey in the affected areas to determine whether or not a tornado occurred.

The NWS ultimately confirmed that an EF-0 strength tornado touched down in the area. The twister, as wide as a football field (100 yards) and packing winds between 75 and 80 mph, hit near St. Fidelis Catholic Church, then traveled in an east-northeast direction about 0.7 mile. It struck the southern edge of Powells Cove Park before finally dissipating.

Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS

Lifelong College Point resident Bill Hermel stood outside of his home on 127th Street and watched as Con Edison worked to remove the massive tree that had fallen into the road.

“Around 10:30 [p.m.] the whole house shook. My wife was getting ready to walk the dog and she said ‘Well what happened?’ Then I came out,” he said.

“It’s not just this tree, you should see the one in my backyard,” said Hermel, who showed QNS a 37-year-old tree that had fallen and missed his house. He added that it was lucky nobody got hurt.

The resident said that this was the first time he recalled a tornado affecting the area.

“The only big thing that happened was Superstorm Sandy in 2012. So things have been getting crazy lately.”

Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS

Other residents a block over on 126th Street and 15th Avenue were not hit as hard as their neighbors. One resident said that she was in the bathroom when she noticed her “lights flickering” while another said that a few shingles on his roof were blown off. Strewn branches and hanging power lines could also be seen in the surrounding blocks.

The “microburst,” as some called it on Friday morning, was a huge cause for concern for Alfredo Centola, the president and founding member of the “We Love Whitestone” group. Centola sent out a media release asking the city to trim trees down to a safer level in the event of future severe weather.

“There are trees planted throughout our community that are not suited for the environment,” wrote Centola in the email. “Many trees with root systems that spread out at surface level and or straight down into the sewer system. These threes [sic] with the surface root system are destroying sidewalks and eating curbs. With the saturating storms we now get during the summer months as well as the fierceness of these ‘micro bursts’ and tornados, isn’t it time our government put the safety of its residents first?”

Photo courtesy of Alfredo Centola
Photo courtesy of Alfredo Centola

The Whitestone resident enclosed photos with his email and said that the trees pictured had been reported at least 100 times to 311. He added that the homeowner whose house was next to the tree had city pruners come, but they had not acknowledged the “compromised root systems” that could prove dangerous for the residents.

For updates about last night’s possible tornado, visit weather.gov/nyc.

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