Agencies respond to Brooklyn tornado

Aug. 8 tornado affected several communities.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BROOKLYN, N.Y. | August 15, 2007

Tornado damage in Brooklyn included uprooted trees.
Credit: Alex Faust/

Damage from a tornado which hit Brooklyn included roofs on row houses being peeled back.
Credit: Alex Faust/

Disaster relief organizations are continuing to respond to a tornado that affected 200 families in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn.

New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS) and the New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYCOEM) partnered to get information out about debris removal, home repairs and other services.

"We are deploying our volunteers to provide outreach to homeowners so that they are correctly informed on what they are entitled to, and to give them information on how to register for free debris and tree removal or home repair," said Peter Gudaitis, NYDIS Executive Director.

The National Weather Service classified the early morning Aug. 8 tornado as an EF-2 with winds of 110 to 135 mph. The tornado tore off roofs, shattered windows and knocked trees down onto homes and cars. Parts of Staten Island and Maspeth, Queens, also experienced damage and flooding. Forecasters said a tornado was a rarity in the area.

A team from Mennonite Disaster Service was in Bay Ridge to provide cleanup and debris removal assistance.

Jerry Grosh, director of field operations, said the city cleaned up the majority of the visible damage on the streets. He said residents were urged to call the city or NYDIS if they needed help removing trees or debris from their backyards or with home repairs.

"You don't see a lot (of damage) as you drive down the street, except a few blue tarps," Grosh said. "What is remaining right now in terms of cleanup is the backyards and maybe trees or limbs on roofs. People haven't been able to get those out."

Representatives from Mennonite Disaster Service and from NYDIS have been out in the streets distributing informational fliers to residents in order to spread the word about the help available.

Yvette Perry, NYDIS communications director, said the forms have been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. Perry said 80 of the affected families were Chinese. NYDIS member organization Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation was assisting those families and had a staffer in the NYDIS office taking phone calls.

Tzu Chi also set up emergency assistance at the Brooklyn Chinese American Association Senior Center and has begun fundraising to help those residents.

The Baptist Convention of New York was organizing teams from across the Southern Baptist Convention who were scheduled to arrive Wednesday to assess damages and begin cleanup efforts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and state officials conducted a preliminary damage assessment Monday in the area.

NYCOEM opened a disaster recovery center at the Mary White Ovington School in Brooklyn which will remain open through Friday. Among those staffing the center were representatives from NYCOEM and city departments, including homeless services, health and mental hygiene, and buildings. Others involved were from the Mayor's Community Affairs Unit and Office of Immigrant Affairs, Catholic Charities, the American Red Cross, the New York City Clothing Bank, Tzu Chi, Disaster Chaplaincy Services and the New York State Department of Insurance.

According to NYCOEM, the city's department of buildings has red-tagged some 20 properties which were too damaged to inhabit and restricted access to 17 others in the Bay Ridge and Sunset Park area.

Representatives were working with homeowners at the disaster recovery center to help them find arrange repair work, fill out paperwork and obtain the work permits. They were also standing by to escort owners whose properties were vacated into their buildings to obtain emergency belongings.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development conducted emergency repairs in 50 buildings. Once emergency repairs have rendered buildings safe, private contractors hired by property owners will complete any necessary repairs.

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More links on Tornadoes


Related Links:

NYDIS Tornado Recovery Web site

Tzu Chi Foundation

NYC Office of Emergency Management


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