Belligerent winds battered New York City yesterday, antagonizing residents with unforgiving bluster and ripping all manner of heavy objects from their moorings. Assertive, gale-force gusts tumbled scaffolding from tall buildings; unhinged awnings from storefronts; ripped up imposing old trees by the roots. Fighting against the currents on the sidewalk felt like walking on the ocean floor in an old-timey diving suit, or so I imagine: The constant battle to remain upright, pitched against a crushing weight that wants to tip you over.
Mercifully, the winds have died down, and now we must catalog the damage.
Firefighters responded to an emergency scaffolding situation on Monday morning, securing construction equipment that collapsed on the 12-story building at 905 5th Avenue and closing the corridor to traffic between 71st and 74th Streets. Due to 65-mph wind blasts, the FDNY had to batten down the hatches "as best as possible" without anyone actually climbing onto the structure: the department maintained a presence at the site throughout the day, just in case the weather decided to get extra frisky.
And it did! Strong gusts—54-mph until about 2 p.m., after which they tapered off a little, but still remained insouciant—teamed up with high surface winds to create garbage gales and general chaos. The FDNY also seems to have had trouble extinguishing fires, thanks to the intervention of lusty breezes that flicked water away from flames.
— Laurie A. Duncan (@macsamurai) February 25, 2019
The tempest also uprooted trees, tearing down a roadside tree at West 190th and Henry Hudson River Parkway in Manhattan, seemingly onto the windshield of a passing Uber. (A passenger was reportedly injured.) The blockage closed the parkway to southbound traffic at the George Washington Bridge, which has since reopened.
— FDNY (@FDNY) February 25, 2019
The boisterous squall made pretty much every form of transportation precarious. If you chose to travel by foot, you likely found yourself blinded by a rogue grocery bag at least once during the journey; if you took a car or even a bus, you still risked impalement by unmoored bits of construction shed. Wind also whipped hefty tree branches down onto subway tracks near Avenue M in Brooklyn just in time for the evening rush, causing delays on the B, D, N, and Q lines.
Please use caution when commuting today, heavy winds are creating hazards. If you have a balcony or patio please remove any items that may become airborne. (plants, furniture, etc.) #UpperEastSide #UES pic.twitter.com/uZwySnzdZA
— NYPD 19th Precinct (@NYPD19Pct) February 25, 2019
An intrepid few still attempted a commute by bike, which went about as well as you'd expect.
This wind is no joke! Legitimately felt like I was going to tip over as I was approaching Broadway, and I was glad to have a bit of space, even in an unprotected #bikenyc lane, to collect and brace myself before continuing forward. pic.twitter.com/abzd7UsrQ0
— Bike Commuting NYC (@driversofnyc) February 25, 2019
Area airports, of course, were screwed, and naturally, the high seas provided zero shelter from the storm: "Gale-force winds" stranded the Norwegian Gem cruise ship off NYC's coast on Monday night, preventing it from docking until this morning and (probably) pissing off a lot of passengers who'd expected to escape this hell for the Caribbean.
All told, the wind's reign of terror injured at least two people and made everything absolutely awful for about 24 hours. Outside of the city, however, the situation may have been worse: New Jersey residents reported thousands of power outages, while upstate, winds peeled the roof right off of SUNY Buffalo's bookstore.
Meanwhile, in Canada, an ice tsunami (!!!) caused the Niagara River to cough up big frozen boulders, which went crashing onto a roadway near the New York border. Really, this has been more than enough wind for one lifetime, thanks.
Whoaa! Listen to the sound!
Ice “tsunami” caused by extreme winds.
Niagara River, Fort Ontario. pic.twitter.com/2U5vx7NIPu
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) February 25, 2019