Residents of Forest Hills said the storm lasted less than 10 minutes. The damage it did, however, will be felt for years to come.
On Sept. 16, a storm raged through Forest Hills and much of the rest of Queens and Brooklyn, bringing with it hail, lightning, and most damaging of all, hurricane-force winds.
Residents uniformly described the storm as a "flash of white" that brought down trees, shattered windows and left utter destruction behind in its wake.
The storm claimed the life of one woman in Forest Hills, according to the NYPD, who was killed when her car was struck by a tree. 30-year-old Ilene Levakis, of Mechanicsburg, PA, was pronounced dead at the Jewel Avenue exit off of the Grand Central Parkway when police and emergency medical technicians arrived.
Ruth Yehoshua, a Forest Hills resident, said the storm came up quickly and totally surprised both her and her family.
"I was looking out the window … and all of a sudden in a matter of seconds the entire place was white, and [I couldn't] see anything," she said.
"You see the wind that way," she gestured wildly to the ground with her arms, "and then that way. My dad and I just looked at each other and were like 'OK, what are we going to do?"
Ruth's brother Michael was on the second floor of the Yehoshua home when the storm hit. He said he heard noise and felt the house shake.
"A branch goes through our roof, I feel the whole house shaking, the lights start blinking," he said. "I see the whole upstairs and there's a big flood coming in through the roof."
Once the storm subsided, it seemed like every resident of Forest Hills had taken to the streets. Neighbors checked on neighbors and described what they had seen and felt. Most described the storm in drastic terms, calling it apocalyptic, with one woman admitting she felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. One resident walking on Yellowstone Boulevard described the street's intersection with Queens Boulevard as "like Vietnam."
At the intersection of Austin Street and Yellowstone Boulevard, aluminum furniture from the upper floor patios of Parker Towers apartments rained down, shattering the glass in bus stop shelters and shearing rear-view mirrors off of parked cars.
Traffic was immediately snarled as downed trees blocked dozens of major thoroughfares in the area.
Many of the businesses on Austin Street and Queens Boulevard had glass storefronts blown out completely, and broken glass littered the streets. Yellowstone Boulevard's sign had been blown all the way to 68th Street, and sat upright on the sidewalk in front of a convenience store.
Forest Hills resident Jade Cao, who was on the subway when the storm hit, said she emerged from underground stunned by the devastation.
"When I came out, trees were everywhere," Cao said. "People were shocked, the water was everywhere. I think the most terrifying thing was that these trees — huge trees — fell down and even the roots [were exposed.]"