Hurricane Sandy doesn’t spare Woodhaven
by Ed Wendell
Oct 31, 2012 | 1703 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy became clearer in the early hours of Tuesday morning.  Nearly three-dozen people were confirmed dead and millions were left without power or the means to travel.  Schools are closed through at least Wednesday as the city attempts to recover from one of the worst storms in its history.

Areas south of Woodhaven suffered the most damage due to flooding and high tides, a deadly combination that left many residents stranded in their homes and emergency service personnel with no way of reaching them. 

Councilman Eric Ulrich kept constituents up-to-date via Twitter as he toured the area, at one point announcing “I barely made it out of Lindenwood - massive flooding and downed power lines, stay indoors!”  A few hours later, Ulrich somberly announced that “Broad Channel was destroyed.”

In comparison, Woodhaven suffered far less damage, but that does not mean to say that it escaped unscathed.  While areas close to the water suffered from flooding, residents of Woodhaven faced dangerous conditions involving high winds, falling trees and downed power lines.

On 92nd Street between 89th and 91st avenues a large tree was ripped out of the ground, crushing a vehicle and pulling two telephone poles and all of the wires down with it.  “We were outside only a few moments before,” resident Steve Forte said as he surveyed the damage. 

He added that all of the residents on the block were without power and telephones and were not entirely sure if the wires laying all over 92nd Street were live or not.

Residents of Woodhaven received telephone warnings from Con Edison throughout the evening that they may need to turn off electricity in parts of Queens. “By shutting service down in advance of expected serious flooding we can prevent severe damage to electrical systems and get service restored sooner,” the recorded message stated.  They also asked residents to turn off all major appliances to avoid “potential damage when power is restored.”  

While many residents reported flickering lights, it does not appear that Con Edison ever had to take that safety precaution in Woodhaven.

However, according to Con Edison’s Storm Center page, which tracks power outages in real time, well over 100 residents of Woodhaven found themselves without power in the wake of the storm, though that number could conceivably be much higher. The area between 80th and 85th streets alone, which suffered a few downed trees and wires, was reporting close to 50 customers were being effected by power outages. 

Residents calling in reports of downed trees and power lines also fed the information to the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, which kept a running list throughout the storm.  By Tuesday morning that list had topped 20 and by afternoon it was closer to 35.  Sanitation crews were seen on Woodhaven Boulevard clearing away the debris from two large trees on the northbound service road, between Jamaica Avenue and 88th Avenue. Another large tree was blocking the northbound service road near Atlantic Avenue.

“We have to keep it clear for emergency vehicles,” one worker explained as he dragged a large piece of a tree trunk out of the way. 

Two trees that fell on the southbound side of Woodhaven Boulevard fell, not into the road, but against two neighboring houses. Again, these trees were ripped from the ground, right at the roots, a sight that has become all too familiar during the last few severe weather events that have hit Woodhaven.

Although there was a lot of damage in Woodhaven, which resulted in a lot of inconvenience, the prevailing opinion was that Woodhaven was lucky compared to nearby communities such as Lindenwood, Howard Beach, Broad Channel, Belle Harbor and the rest of the Rockaways. At this point in time there are no reports of any injuries or anything worse in Woodhaven.

One casualty of Hurricane Sandy was the nearly 100-foot tall tree at Forest Parkway and Jamaica Avenue that served as Woodhaven’s Christmas Tree the last few decades.  By Tuesday morning, the tree had toppled over, ripped out of the ground at the roots, and was only held off the ground by a nearby tree. 

It was one of a few dozen trees that were ripped from the ground by Hurricane Sandy, but the one tree whose hole will be the hardest for the residents of Woodhaven to fill.

“It’s a great loss to the community and to me personally because I was there when we planted it,” said Maria Thomson of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation. “It got taken down by the wind and we’re very upset about it because the children look forward to the tree lighting ceremony.”

The tree was ranked the third best Christmas tree in the city in a survey last year. The GWDC is looking for a new tree to replace it before the December 7th scheduled tree lighting.

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