The absurdly strong storm system that moved through New York City on Thursday evening left a swath of destruction in its wake. According to the National Weather Service there were two tornadoes, one in Park Slope Brooklyn, and one in Flushing, Queens, and a macroburst that blasted Middle Village and Forest Hills, Queens. That last location, Forest Hills, is where I live, and the number of trees down, windows shattered, and cars damaged in my neighborhood is enormous.
I was at work in midtown-Manhattan when the storm went through, and my coworkers and I marveled at how rapidly visibility out of our office windows dropped to virtually nil. Other than that, we had no idea of just how severe the storm was until the internet started exploding with images, videos, tweets, and status updates indicating that something crazy had happen in the outer boroughs. I quickly got in touch with Daisy, who had been deep underground in the subway when the storm hit, and had emerged in our neighborhood completely oblivious to what had happened until she saw a store’s giant sign on the ground and trees and branches down all over the place. She tried calling her mom to make sure that she and Desi were alright but got no answer and therefore ran home to see the trees in front of the house down and Desi and his grandma on the balcony surveying the damage. Whew!
By the time I got out of work, word that the Long Island Railroad and the 7-train were out of service because of so many downed trees in the tracks had gotten out so everyone was waiting to take my E-train home. It was a horribly packed commute that ended with a walk home in the dark and rain to the tune of sirens in the air and broken branches underfoot and the sight of flashing lights, broken glass, and shocked faces.
It was good to be with my family. And it was also good that the only thing that we lost, really, was the tree in front of our apartment (the one in front of the house next door, or, rather, what is left of it, will likely have to come down too). Of course, many others lost far more, including one woman on the Grand Central Parkway who did the right thing and pulled over as the storm came through and was killed by a falling tree. It is remarkable though, that two hurricanes and macroburst could rip through 14 miles of densely populated city and only kill one person. Small condolence to the family of that one person but still remarkable.
The trees are as irreplaceable as the life that was lost. It will be decades or even centuries before saplings planted now become as large as the trees downed by the storm. The trees in front of our house were not that large but we loved having them there from when we first moved in to the place. They shaded us and gave the local birds a place from which to sing, a place to forage, and a place to preen. In particular the tree that was directly in front of our balcony will be missed. Desi and I had watched a daddy Downy Woodpecker feed its offspring there and sometimes the neighborhood cardinal would sit and sing its sweet song.
Eh, I am sliding towards sentimentality and suppose I should just be thankful that a tree was all that we lost. I fear a heating planet where extreme weather events like these will become more and more frequent and only hope that we collectively work to curb the worst extremes. The two tornadoes that hit on Thursday were the second and third of the year in New York, a city that has a very sparse history when it comes to twisters. Dorothy, I think that not only are we not in Kansas anymore, but I fear that we don’t even have ruby slippers with which to get home.
The street trees will be a loss, both because of wildlife considerations and because of their role in reducing the urban heat island effect. At least the damage wasn’t worse.
I haven’t been to any of the parks in Queens to see the damage to my usual birding sights. From my Flushing apartment I didn’t see much damage, and I did not realize how bad it was. When I went outside I saw how bad it was. The housing complex lost one of the huge oak trees in front.
I am writing this on Sunday and streets in Forest Hills, including the one outside my bedroom windows, are still closed. The trees surrounding my apt. building have been toppled and beheaded. The path I take to Flushing Meadow Park is an obstacle course of old, beautiful trees downed against huge new macmansions. The stone and concrete macmansions started appearing about six years ago, and I resented their presence. I thought they changed the look of the neighborhood, and missed the classic brick houses they replaced. I now realize that it was the trees that made the neighborhood, that made it “home” no matter what people were building.
In the past few years I’ve seen in Westchester the damage that both a microburst and a small tornado can do, and like you I am *amazed* there was only one fatality from these storms, which happened right at rush hour in such densely packed areas. I think I heard that Mayor Bloomberg estimates the lost trees into the thousands. But the loss of even one dearly loved tree like yours is a shame.
Wow, what a pity. Killer last sentence.
Such a shame about the tree. The nature and wildlife in an area, especially in cities, are what makes a place home. The things that lend tranquility, wonder, beauty… Thank goodness your family were not harmed.
Always sad to lose a tree you’d gotten to know. As you said, it could have been much worse, but that doesn’t lessen the loss of the trees, especially in an urban area.
It’s terrible to lose a tree when they are so scarce in the city. Hope a replacement will be planted soon and you will start on the way to enjoying shade and wildlife – even citified – again.
Storms like this, that bring down trees, bring nature and culture–and their contrasts–face to face. So interesting to see ~
I had a storm roll through waukegan, illinois.. a tree fell on top of my garage and my car was in there.. sad times.. hope all is well with you after that storm