Storm causes damage and death

December 15, 2010 9:36:58 AM PST
Wednesday's storm blew down trees across parts of the New York area, and one of them killed a driver in New Jersey.

There isn't much left of the black Lincoln town car that 62-year-old Thomas Murphy, and his wife, 64-year-old Barbara were riding in after firefighters had to cut off the damaged roof to rescue Mrs. Murphy.

They were headed south on Macopin Road around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, when a tree in woods, just off the road, gave way.

"It was a large tree, about 16 to 18 inches in diameter, and it crashed thru the roof of the car," said Chief Gene Chiosie of the West Milford Police.

Mr. Murphy was driving. He was killed instantly. His wife suffered serious wounds to her head, and was rushed by ambulance to St Joseph's hospital in Paterson.

The medivac helicopter could not fly because of bad weather.

Chief Chiosie says weather was a factor in the accident as the ground was soaked and soft.

"With all the rain, the trees are uprooting, we had more trees come down in that area while police were there," Chief Chiosie said.

In fact, just up Macopin Road, a tree came crashing down, only a couple of hours after the fatal accident.

"I heard this loud noise, it was like a cracking sound, I thought it hit the studio, and it crashed to the ground," said Jean St. Jean, a West Milford resident.

There are fallen and leaning trees all over the hillsides in the area, and police say it's something drivers need to be aware of while the ground is so soft.

"Be cognizant while you're driving, lookout for washouts, take it slow, and don't rush to go anywhere," Chief Chiosie said.

Police say the trees can fall in the blink of an eye.

Had the one that hit the Murphy's fallen 30 seconds later, the family tragedy would not have happened.

Elsewhere, strong wind shut down the Statue of Liberty and delayed some flights up to five hours at New York City airports as thunderstorms and gusting winds batter the metropolitan area.

The Federal Aviation Administration said on its website that some flights arrivals were delayed by up to two hours at Newark Liberty International Airport. There are no major delays reported at JFK or LaGuardia Airport.

The wind snapped a huge, lighted Christmas tree at the South Street Seaport. No injuries were reported.

The storm was also causing problems for vehicle traffic. All trucks were briefly banned from using the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island.

In Secaucus, a tractor-trailer overturned by Exit 17 E. The turnpike authority says the truck was empty. Officials say wind and driver error contributed to the accident.

Wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour took down one pole in Sea Bright, New Jersey. That one pole took down several others, knocking out power to the center of town. Shelters were being set up for residents as officials said it could be awhile before the power is back on.

A giant tree came crashing down in Leonia during the height of the storm.

Wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour were enough to tear a tree apart at its foundation and cause destruction.

Chief Robert Chace says the department was on scene shortly after a neighbor called them.

"At this point we are trying to secure all of the utilities and salvage as much of the property as possible," Chief Chace said.

The homeowner said no one was home when the tree came crashing through the roof and no one was hurt.

"The house is pretty severely damaged. There is a lot of water in the kitchen area, and obviously a large hole in the roof," Chief Chace said.

Alex Doktor feels bad for his neighbor but said, "It happens, what can you do."

Late Tuesday afternoon, the hole in the roof was covered, but the home was deemed unsafe.

Parts of Suffolk County reported lots of damage, including a tree down across the road at Cove road in Huntington; wires down on Pulaski Road in Northport; tree down on Sweet Hollow Road in West Hills; tree down on Plover Road in Lloyd Harbor.

The unrelenting rain and lashing winds? took quite a toll on the Town of Huntington.

"The flash of light was like a big flash of lightning in my front yard. Just like huge," said Nick Meringolo, a Greenlawn resident.

It wasn't lightning in Nick Meringolo's Greenlawn yard, but a toppled tree that brought down a power lines and forced police to close Greenlawn Road.

Fortunately, no one had been driving there when the tree and wires came crashing down.

"That could have been me, could have me, my family, everyone I know," Meringolo said.

In South Huntington, another tree crashed through the roof of a home.

Some streets in Huntington Station were simply impassable.

Power crews rushed to evaluate the impact across Suffolk County.

Back in Greenlawn, the wind did quite a number on the Kelapires' meticulous Christmas display.

10-year-old Ryan wondered how he'd do his homework in the dark.

"We'll try a little bit," Ryan Kelapire said.

Power Problems in New Jersey

New Jersey has just over 5,600 outages, mostly in Bergen County.

PSE&G reports 5,300 outages with about 4,300 in Bergen County. The utility expects total restoration by 8 a.m. Thursday morning.

JCP&L reports 339 customers without power. Earlier Wednesday they had 34,000 customers out.

Extra crews will be working tonight.