Tornado Clean Up Could Take Weeks

By Greg Cergol
|  Tuesday, Sep 21, 2010  |  Updated 1:08 PM EDT
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VIDEO: Wild Storm Through Your Eyes

Kathy Renzi

Flushing, Queens

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Angelica Helica Delgado captured this amazing footage of the tornado that hit New Jersey.
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On Monday -- four days after a severe system of storms, tornadoes and "macrobursts" tore through the region -- Rose Porricelli's house remained without gas service.  Robert Durso had yet to replace the broken windows in his pasta store.  Electric wires still dangled from fallen trees.

Huge tree trunks covered smashed cars. And the concrete sidewalk  along Utopia Parkway stood on end, ripped from the ground.

Such was the scene in the Auburndale section of Flushing, five days after last week's tornadoes.

Crews from private firms were busy trying to remove some debris from the storm; but, frustration was growing here with what some saw as the slow pace of New York City's clean up effort.

"We got to get the city up off their rear ends to get this cleared away," said Ben Panas, a North Flushing resident who used his own chain saws to cut away a tree blocking his street.

"I haven't seen the city come in yet," added Antonio Caniano, a Flushing homeowner.  "They told us two days ago they were supposed to be here and we're still waiting."

The clean up could take weeks, explained Mayor Bloomberg. These tornadoes did more damage, he said, than any city storm since Hurricane Gloria in 1985.

"I understand people are frustrated," the Mayor added. "It just goes to show how powerful Mother Nature is."

Right now, about 350 city personnel from the NYPD, FDNY, Parks and Sanitation departments are all involved in removing the remnants of the storm. They are expected to reopen all closed streets by Tuesday.  Then, the crews will turn their attentions to taking down trees that fell on homes and buildings.

The Mayor called their work so far "incredible."

Out of state utility crews, from places like Massachusetts, were in Queens to help Con Edison restore electric service; but, gas service and other utilities remained down.

"No cooking for us," said Mike Langone of Flushing, as he stood near what appeared to be a gas pipe ripped from the ground.  "I can do my laundry but I have to take it to a laundromat to dry."

A few blocks away, someone painted the word, "Timberrrrr" on a downed tree.  Folks in Queens, it seemed, were doing their best to retain their sense of humor and their patience.

"I know they're overwhelmed. I do understand that," said a pregnant Andrea Odintz-Cohen.  "This WAS a big storm."

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