And it was quite the show. I saw multiple lightning strikes on the Empire State Building, cloud to cloud lightning and sheet lightning before the rain completely enveloped the train I was on such that you could barely see a few feet ahead.
The rain came down sideways and the winds were severe. Trees were knocked over all around the area, particularly in Woodside Queens. That, along with flooding, knocked out LIRR service throughout the system, and NJ Transit fared nearly as bad with service delays out of Penn Station in Manhattan.
Tornado warnings were up in the area, and apparently more than a few people saw funnel clouds, so it is possible that some of the wind damage was the result of those funnel clouds touching down.
That's a video of a microburst in Brooklyn. Repeat that scene all over the area, and you get the idea.
Here are some more photos from Brooklyn.
Damage reports are still coming in from around the area, and tornado sightings were reported across Staten Island and winds topped 100 mph in some areas. The National Weather Service will be busy over the next few days surveying the damage to determine whether the damage was the result of microbursts, straight-line winds, or tornadoes. Funnel cloud sightings were reported in Middlesex County New Jersey before heading into the City.
One person was killed when a tree fell on his car while driving on the Grand Central Parkway.
NBCNewYork.com got reports that hail fell on the Lower East Side while heavy winds caused extensive damage in Brooklyn, Queens Staten Island and parts of Long Island. Lightning wreaked havoc as far away as Greenwich, Conn.NJ Transit and LIRR both failed their customers once again in failing to provide timely updates to thousands trying to get home during the evening rush. Their websites were useless in providing updates - again.
Con Edison reported 27,000 customers without power, NBCNewYork.com said.
In the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, witnesses say the sky went pitch black at about 5:30 p.m. Trees started waving around like blades of grass. Large branches snapped and hit cars, smashing windshields.
"All of a sudden, we saw this dark cloud, and it was moving. I said 'Let's go in!'" said Stephen Wylie, who was working in a backyard on Quincy Street, in Brooklyn.
Within seconds, the front door started lashing back and forth. Trees branches were falling and trees came flying from other yards, Wylie said.
"They smashed the whole backyard, a gazebo there. Then half the roof was torn off — eight layers of it" — leaving only a layer of wood, he said.
Even an hour after the storms came through, LIRR officials who were talking with local radio stations couldn't account for where all trains were - whether they were stuck between stations or the like.