A billboard six stories tall collapsed onto the westbound lane of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Friday, snarling traffic just before the evening rush hour, city officials said.
And now officials are investigating whether the billboard violated city rules.
The billboard fell near Metropolitan Avenue, with much of its heavy debris falling onto three auto repair shops below the roadway. Those one-story buildings suffered structural damage, according to Deputy Chief Robert Strong, but the BQE did not appear to have significant damage.
No one was injured, he said.
"We were very fortunate that no one on the street or the highway was affected by this, other than the backup of traffic," Strong said.
High winds Friday may have contributed to the billboard coming down, he said. At the time of the collapse, winds were 20 to 30 mph, with gusts of about 40 mph.
The billboard was to be removed with a crane, he said.
The Department of Billboards told NBC New York that they are still investigating the incident, but if the billboard had advertising on it, and was within 200 feet of the highway, then it would be illegal.
If the billboard was blank, it could legally be that close to the road.
The sign came down with such force that people in the area thought they had just lived through an earthquake.
"It's amazing that nobody got hurt," said one bystander.