National Weather Service confirms tornadoes, microburst hit New York City

By BNO News

NEW YORK CITY (BNO NEWS) -- The National Weather Service on late Friday confirmed that two tornadoes touched down in New York City during a powerful storm that caused widespread damage on Thursday, killing one person and injuring others.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said one of the tornadoes touched down near Park Slope in Brooklyn with maximum wind speeds around 80 miles (129 kilometers) per hour. "The tornado touched down in Park Slope and lifted 2 miles [northeast] of Park Slope," the agency said.

The second tornado touched down about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) south of Flushing in Queens and lifted about one mile (1.6 kilometer) northeast of Bayside. This tornado was slightly stronger with maximum wind speeds of around 100 miles (161 kilometers) per hour.

A woman, identified as Iline Leuakis, was killed when a tree crashed into her car on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens as the tornado hit. "The severity of the storm may have caught us by surprise, but New Yorkers are a resilient people and we will get through this ordeal together," said New York Governor David Paterson.

In addition to the two tornadoes, a microburst hit near Middle Village in Queens. "The path of the microburst was from Middle Village to Forest Hills," the NWS said.

"A microburst is a convective downdraft with an affected outflow area of less than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide and peak winds lasting less than 5 minutes," the agency explained. "Microbursts may induce dangerous horizontal/vertical wind shears which can adversely affect aircraft performance and cause property damage."

The powerful storm left more than 30,000 people - most of them in Queens and Staten island - without power. "This is one of those things that while it may be an act of God it doesn't make it any easier for us," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he surveyed storm damage on Thursday. "People are concerned, they have every right to be concerned. The good news is that most people were safe, just annoyed – traffic being bad or a tree coming down in their yard."

Paterson said he requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide teams of federal inspectors to determine the extent of damage in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. "As part of the federal disaster process, both the individual boroughs and the State must reach a threshold of damage before any federal assistance can be requested," he added.

Tornadoes are extremely rare in New York City, and Thursday's tornadoes were the first time one record that a tornado caused a fatality in the city. The last time a tornado hit New York City was in July, when a weak tornado swirled through the Bronx.

Prior to that, two tornadoes touched down in Staten Island and Brooklyn on August 8, 2007. Other tornadoes touched down in 2003, 1995, 1990, 1985 and 1974. No other tornadoes were recorded since records began in 1950.

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