A real, honest-to-goodness tornado hit Brooklyn tonight. No shit! Brooklyn! I had to leave work early today, and was just beginning the three-block walk from the R train to my apartment when the first lightning flash occurred. The thunderclap sounded several seconds later - the lightning was obviously pretty far away - but within seconds sheets of rain had started to fall. SHEETS. I was soaked to the skin (through a nice wool suit, among other garments) within just a couple of seconds. I have never been in rain that hard; it was difficlt to see more than a couple of feet in front of you. The winds were so high that roofing was blowing off of the houses on my street and whipping through the air; bags of garbage were picked off of the curb and blown across the intersection of 5th Avenue and Berkeley. A man running just ahead of me was hit by a limb that had been sheared off of a tree - not a branch, a limb. It was the worst weather I have ever been in in my life.
Later, the extent of the damage was revealed. A woman in Queens was killed when a tree fell onto the car that she was driving. In my neighborhood, a tree on 7th Avenue was entirely uprooted out of a concrete sidewalk. Cars had been crushed by falling trees. My street, and numerous other blocks in my neighborhood, were closed to traffic. Many of the trees on my street were damaged so badly that they will eventually have to be chopped down.
I wonder if a tornado hitting Manhattan would be one of the most catastrophic natural distasters that could occur in this country. Up on the higher floors of buildings, the difference in pressure between the outside and the inside would be so great that tens of thousands of windows would likely blow out of the walls, showering the sidewalks with glass. So the only safe place to hide would be the subway tunnels. Only, if there was flooding, the subway tunnels would be the last place you would want to be, especially with all of those high-voltage wires and electrified third rails. A tornado hitting Manhattan is a scary thing to contemplate.