I was working Saturday morning, September 8, when we had a report of a tornado touching down in Queens. I’d heard this one before: usually it takes a day or so before the National Weather Service can confirm if indeed there was a touch down. But the brave new world of technology has changed things. I googled “Queens tornado” and suddenly, right before my eyes, there was the funnel cloud.
Someone had already posted a six-minute cell phone video. The storm appears to start as a water spout out at sea, and then bears down on Breezy Point. When it hits land it seems to grow in strength. In its target: the Breezy Point Surf Club, basically a cabana colony, one of many in the Rockaways. The storm then made its way across the bay to Brooklyn, where a second funnel cloud appeared.
“It was like ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” said Matt Kehoe of South Ozone Park, who was closing up his cabana for the year. I don’t think he meant it was literally like the “Wizard of Oz.” There was no Miss Gulch, or Wicked Witch, but I’ll give Matt the benefit of the doubt. After all, this was a twister, and we are definitely not in Kansas.
Somebody else told me it sounded like a freight train. I’ve heard that one before too. Either it’s just something you say to reporters, or maybe, it really does sound like a freight train. I don’t want to find out personally.
One thing I’m convinced of: there is something weird going on with the weather. Dare I say global warming? Remember, I didn’t say it was man-made or not. I’ll leave that to the politicians to debate. But the numbers, and temperatures, don’t lie. So now we get blizzards on Halloween, and multiple tornadoes in Queens.
Of course, by tornado standards, these two were weak: EF0 and EF1 on the tornado rating scale. I was in Woodward, Oklahoma in April, in tornado alley, in the aftermath of a storm.
I saw an 18-wheeler that had been tossed into a furniture store. Nearby homes were flattened.
People there say the first thing they talk about in that town is what their shelter looks like. Yes, shelter meaning underground shelter, reminders of the Cold War days here.
One silver lining in this storm: the early warning. Many people I spoke to in Queens say they had gotten advance notice, many from their smartphones. So technology is making us safer. But Mother Nature keeps surprising us.