Two tornadoes struck New York City on Saturday, one in Queens and another in Brooklyn, causing significant damage and knocking out power lines, but resulting in no serious injuries among the startled residents.
Videos taken by bystanders showed a funnel cloud hurling sand and debris in the air, and possibly small pieces of buildings, as it moved through the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens.
About seven minutes later, the second hit to the northwest, in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. The National Weather Service said winds were up to 110 miles per hour, and several homes and trees were damaged.
The weather service had issued a tornado warning for Queens and Brooklyn at around 10:40 a.m., but the storm nonetheless took residents by surprise when it struck about 20 minutes later. Tornadoes usually hit the Midwest and Southern United States but rarely strike the Northeast.
Linda Beal-Benigno was driving on the Belt Parkway near the Flatbush exit when she said a tornado traveled across the road.
"At first I though it was dark smoke," she told NBC News. "The entire belt felt like it was shaking. It was very frightening because you could see the funnel traveling and moving. It crossed the highway and just missed cars."
"I never saw anything like that in my life," she added.
The tornado, which left more than 1,100 people without power in New York City, struck as part of a line of storms that were expected to bring damaging winds, hail, heavy rain and possibly more tornadoes throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Saturday.
Radar data, video and witness reports confirmed that the cyclone was, in fact, a tornado, National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Hofmann said. He said an inspection team would assess the damage and before estimating the strength of the storm. Hofmann said some witnesses were reporting that the wind had been strong enough to lift cars off the pavement.
Two possible tornadoes were also reported later Saturday in the Washington, D.C., area, as heavy winds and rains left tens of thousands without electricity.