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Our Brooklyn tornado, one block away

Update: Yes, it's official, it was a tornado--like we hadn't figured that out.

We're not in Flatbush anymore, Toto. At least that's what it looks like this morning. The news claims that a tornado "may have" hit Bay Ridge , but so far no one is reporting on the devastation a block south of us in the Prospect Park South historic district, what we call "the magic land" for its magnificent Victorian homes and trees. Most of the homes were spared anything but minor damage, from the look of it on a steamy walk this morning, but the trees are a fallen forest in what was one of the city's leafiest enclaves. Here's a tour.



Just south of Church Avenue on Marlborough Road, this mid-sized maple outside Temple Beth Emeth peeled off the underground cement pad where it must've grown as a weed tree. tornadoMB3.JPGIt's amazing it lasted this long on such a shallow pad of superficial roots. The victim car seems strangely cozy in its cage of branches.

Going south, the corner of Albemarle and Marlborough Roads--a four-way-mansion intersection--is a scene of ruination. tornadoMB4.JPGLots of neighbors on cell phones gazing at lots of felled maples, pines, lindens. (Nobody going anywhere on the train--there's also a tree across the subway tracks in a nearby open culvert.) Everyone describes a house-shaking "freight train" wind before dawn, and the swath of destruction is totally unlike the "twigs down" scale we were blessed with just a block away. If this ain't a tornado, it's close enough for me. tornadoMB5.JPG

The snapped-off trunks stand in a row like palings on Marlborugh just south of Albemarle.










Over on Buckingham Road, tornadobuck1.JPGneighbors reported hearing lightning strike this lovely old hemlock, splitting it in half. It would've been quite a show if anyone had been foolhardy enough to be sitting in the balcony of that gorgeous turret.


Every intersection was barricaded by fallen trunks, and police, fire, and MTA vehicles prowled around them. Here is tornadorugby1.JPGRugby Road looking north from Beverly Road--a strangely bucolic pedestrian mall.




I stepped over countless twisted roadblocks; for some, it was not an option. tornadorugby2.JPG




On Argyle Road, our neighbor with the famous double-depth garden showed me her backyard--what had been a spacious lawn was a shoulder-deep tangle of fallen woods. In front of the house, a twisted metal sign had been deposited from blocks-distant Coney Island Avenue. tornadoargyle.2.JPG





As I headed back to Church Avenue, a crew of strapping young men from the FDNY strolled down the middle of the street with a chain saw, a welcome sight (and not just because of their firefightery gorgeousness).  tornadoargyle1.JPG


Finally, back in my own little sliver of "Caton Park" north of Church Avenue, my neighbors on Rugby Road awoke to their own roadblock. Blessedly, no one was in the car. tornadorugby3.JPG


It seems a miracle now that the Crazy Stable and our looming Mighty Ent were spared. And even in the ravaged Magic Land, I saw no missing roofs or other major house damage, thank God.

Posted on Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 11:42AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments11 Comments

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Reader Comments (11)

OH MY! We get alot of tornado activity here in Texas but THERE? That is awful!
August 8, 2007 at 12:52PM | Unregistered Commentermarye
Don't thank God, he is the one who did this to the neighborhood. If he actually loved you he wouldn;t do all this ripping up of trees etc.
August 8, 2007 at 03:03PM | Unregistered Commenterneighbored
Thank you, Christopher Hitchens!--blb
August 8, 2007 at 03:24PM | Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn
Since the Q train was not running from Cortelyou and people were reporting that there was not F train either, I took the Express bus into NYC.
I didn't see any trees down on my walking on Cortelyou. Once on the bus as we got to Church Ave we passed a several block long swath of downed trees.
Most trees seem to have hit the sidewalk or street and missed the houses or parked cars. There was a huge tree that had brushed an apartment building on it's way down and took a few window air conditioners along with it as it fell.

Will have to do a walk around the area (one I actually manage to get home, subway may still not be running) and see if their is damage in Ditmas Park West.
August 8, 2007 at 05:09PM | Unregistered CommenterCortelyou
I am so out of touch! My sister in Detroit called me to tell me (in NYC) that there was a tornado in Brooklyn. I Googled it and found your page, as well as many other news feeds. Yours is more thorough than any of the "official" news stories I came across on the web. I love your style of writing and the photos are all-telling.

I'm glad you all are safe!
August 9, 2007 at 09:47AM | Unregistered CommenterMisha
Was there damage to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden - does anyone know?
August 9, 2007 at 11:29AM | Unregistered CommenterSusan
Thanks for posting the pics. and descriptions of the storm damage. My daughter and family live on Rugby Rd. and reported that they were undamaged, luckily.
I live in Minnesota so am not unfamiliar with tornadic and severe storm damge. I hope the damage is not too extensive in your neighborhood as that is some of the nicest urban landscape we have.
Thanks again,
August 9, 2007 at 11:54AM | Unregistered CommenterLance
I'm from Minnesota too, and my Aunt & Uncle live on Rugby Rd - that's their house in the picture second from the bottom! I haven't talked to them yet, but apparently everything is OK. Thanks for the pic's & glad you are OK!
August 9, 2007 at 12:38PM | Unregistered CommenterAnya
My daughter just left Kansas City where this type of damage is common in the summer months to visit family on the East Coast. Unfortunately this is common storm damage in the ruby red slipper area of the country. I hope from the bottom of my Midwest heart everyone is doing OK!
August 9, 2007 at 03:05PM | Unregistered Commenterdancersmom
I grew up on Argyle between Cortelyou and Dorchester Roads just about 50 years ago. When I moved to Memphis in 1984 everyone was shocked that I was moving to 'tornado alley'. What do you all think about Flabush being hit by a twister? Unreal!!!!
August 9, 2007 at 04:56PM | Unregistered CommenterKaryn
Last night on way home I checked out Rugby from Cortelyou and saw a big pile of branches mid block and a uprooted tree stump that had just been cleaned up.
Over at Beverly and Argyle I saw a big ol' tree 1/2 fallen over an leaning on the 3rd floor of the house. Didn't look like there was much damage to actual house, but is was after dark when I went by.
August 9, 2007 at 06:32PM | Unregistered CommenterCortelyou

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