Summer Thunderstorm Wreaks Havoc in Central Park

Last night at about 10 pm I could hear the thunder crashing just a few blocks east in Central Park.  I absently wondered how it was impacting the screening of “Sex In The City” at the Central Park Film Festival.  I also concratulated myself on deciding against my planned saunter over to observe the demographics of the type of crowd that would brave 90 degree heat and 100% humitdity to observe the further quatro-frenetic antics of Carrie & Co.  As it turned out there were much more serious matters at hand.

Tree Damage on the East Side Drive

Tree Damage on the East Side Drive

Over three hundred trees, some over a century old, lay snapped in half and uprooted throughout Central Park today after a severe thunderstorm with winds as high as 80 mph crashed through New York City last night.  The storm swept through the park Tuesday night, snapping the park’s famous American elm trees in half while uprooting others. One tree lay across the tennis courts at West 96th Street, and a few lampposts stood at a slant after trees crashed into them. A number of parked cars were also destroyed when branches went flying through the air and smahed into them.

“I’ve never seen a wind of that velocity in New York City,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said according to the AP.  “It looks like pictures that I’ve seen of war zones where artillery shells have shredded trees.”  Parks employees were cleaning up streets and travel lanes Wednesday and identifying any hazardous areas of trees with hanging limbs that could still come down. The Central Park Conservancy also brought in emergency contractors.

Benepe urged the public to stay away from any trees in the park marked hazardous. He said some of the heavier-hit sections, like the North Meadow and the area around the tennis courts, might have to be cordoned off.  “The landscape has changed forever,” he said.

The American elm can grow up to 125 feet tall, with a spread spanning 65 feet at the top. Benepe said he wasn’t sure if new saplings would ever be able to reach the size and maturity of the trees that were lost.  The storm swept in after two sweltering days of temperatures above 90 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms Wednesday evening.

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