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Queens Chronicle

Irene takes its toll; trees down

Rosedale and St. Albans are hard hit; many lose power

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Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:25 pm, Thu Sep 8, 2011.

The FDNY and Con Edison were out in force Monday fixing downed power lines and uprooted trees that were strewn about Rosedale and St. Albans as a result of Hurricane Irene, which struck the area over the weekend.

There was minimal flooding, according to the residents who spoke to the Chronicle on Monday, but many experienced power outages and a loss of phone service from the severe storm, which dumped up to 7 inches of rain on the city.

In downtown Jamaica, the damage appeared less severe, but there were snapped tree limbs along Jamaica Avenue, in King Park and at the closed Mary Immaculate Hospital site. Several merchants along Hillside Avenue, who typically experience flooding when it rains, said they escaped the deep water this time.

Marcia Prentice of Rome Drive in St. Albans, saw the tree in front of her home ripped out by the roots. It collapsed on top of some power lines.

“The wires were sparking and I called 911 and they said it was not an emergency, so I called 311,” Prentice said. “Later on around 3 a.m. we saw people coming down with flashlights, and then not too long after that the lights went out.”

The power was still out on Monday afternoon.

Prentice’s neighbor L. Wiltshire, who lives across the street, had tree limbs covering her car and completely blocking her driveway. She said during the storm she feared for the safety of her four children, three of whom have special needs.

“There was a lot of wind, and it was very nerve-racking and scary,” Wiltshire said. “I was very nervous about the trees falling, which eventually they did at around 4 a.m. knocking out the power and falling on top of my car.”

Some homes had their entranceways completely blocked by tree limbs like one on Galway Avenue in the Jamaica-St. Albans area. The residence is vacant and for sale by its owner, who was in Florida at the time of the storm, according to Steve Hatzalazardis of Melody Development, the real estate company overseeing the property. He was out Monday afternoon surveying the damage.

“I’m just going to call him now and tell him the story and then he can call the city,” Hatzalazardis said of the owner. “You can’t get in the door, but I don’t think the damage is too much.

Jamal Smith of 175th Street in Jamaica awoke Sunday morning to find the tree in front of his house ripped out by the roots, with its limbs strewn about on his front lawn and completely blocking the front entrance to the dwelling.

“It happened so fast, I thought I was dreaming,” Smith said. “I heard cracking and I got nervous.”

Michael Severe of Elmira Avenue in St. Albans said he prepared for the storm in advance and felt lucky that he did not sustain any flooding or other property damage, just some leaves and tree branches in his backyard.

“We bought extra food and water and we taped up the windows,” Severe said. “I kind of slept through the storm and when I woke up this morning I saw branches and leaves all over the place.”

His neighbor across the street, however, wasn’t as lucky — a tree landed squarely on his home. No one answered the door at the residence on Monday afternoon to comment on the damage. Department of Transportation workers were on the scene, but they said they were there to fix a pothole in front of the home, not to cart away the tree.

Firefighters, one in a cherry picker, were out near the corner of Montauk Street and Merrick Boulevard fixing circuits for fire alarm boxes, which were damaged by the storm. “A lot of them got blown out,” one of them said.

Department of Environmental Protection field operation staffers were working near the corner of Brookville Boulevard and 141st Avenue in Rosedale using a crane to remove leaves and other debris from a clogged sewer.

Winston Searchwell of Cambria Heights was watching the DOT at work and opined on what the city could do to prevent future storm damage.

“I think the city should go on a campaign and look at the older trees that pose a potential problem and they should remove those trees and put a new tree in its place,” Searchwell said. “Over time you would have vegetation in the neighborhood, but you elEminate these problems that we have every time we have severe wind.” A snapped utility pole landed on Karl Crooks’s house on Brookville Boulevard in Rosedale after the storm. He and about a dozen of his neighbors watched as the FDNY used a chainsaw to cut the enormous tree that fell on the fence surrounding his house into smaller pieces so that they could be hauled away. The tree was ripped out by the roots, taking about eight feet of earth with it.

“There was very strong wind and rain,” Crooks said. “When the wind picked up the power lines went down and there was a lot of smoke and fire, and then I saw the tree on the house.”

Crooks said aside from the tree he sustained no other damage to his home.

Shula Joseph of 175th Place in St. Albans, had a similar experience. The top half of the tree in front of her house broke off and the wind planted it across her lawn and against her roof. She said the city told her it could take as long as two weeks before workers could come out to clean up the mess.

“Sunday morning I heard a big boom,” she said. “I looked outside and didn’t see anything. But when daylight came around I saw the tree up there. It broke and landed on the lawn. I thought the whole roof was ruined.”

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