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Storms kill one, disrupt travel around New York City

  • Story Highlights
  • Woman killed when her car, stuck in high water, was hit by a car
  • National Weather Service officials confirm tornado touched down
  • Five injured around city, most by falling objects, mayor says
  • Flooding disrupts rail services; air traffic backed up
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Strong winds and heavy rainstorms tore through the Big Apple early Wednesday, killing one person and wreaking havoc on the region's transit system and causing delays at two major airports.

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Strong storms brought trees down all over Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday morning.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a woman died after her car became stuck in high water under an overpass on Staten Island and it was hit by another car.

Five other people have been injured throughout the city, most as a result of falling trees and flying objects when a tornado swept through Brooklyn shortly before 7 a.m. ET, Bloomberg said.

The National Weather Service confirmed the twister winds were up to 135 mph.

The Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn lost as many as 40 percent of its trees, according to Commissioner Joe Bruno of the city Office of Emergency Management.

Many of them fell on vehicles and homes.

"I saw the tree coming down and I ran back inside," said one man who went outside when his car alarm went off. "It sounded like a freight train coming through." Video Watch the damage done by the New York storms »

"I never thought this would happen in Brooklyn. ... Kansas maybe, but not here."

One official said as many as 150 trees were reported down in the city.

Bloomberg said he had visited a Nissan dealership in Brooklyn that lost part of its roof. He saw several churches missing parts of their roofs or windows.

The NWS said the tornado first touched down about 6:30 a.m., damaged trees, then lifted, tearing off the roof of the Nissan dealership. It returned to the ground farther northeast, the weather service said, causing more tree damage.

It touched down a third time in another area, ripping the roofs off five homes and causing more tree damage. By that point, meteorologists said, its winds had died down to 100 mph.

A National Weather Service tornado warning was in effect until 7:15 a.m. ET after Doppler radar reported a strong signal in the area, which includes JFK Airport. The warning was issued at 6:20 a.m., the NWS said.

Flash flooding warnings were briefly issued in New York City and surrounding areas after a strong thunderstorm moved through the region around 7 a.m., dumping up to 3 inches of rain in less than an hour over Manhattan and western and central Long Island.

Bloomberg said some area beaches might have to be closed later due to the runoff from the storm mixing with sewage.

The extreme weather caused delays of up to one and a half hours at JFK -- which got 3.47 inches of rain -- and at LaGuardia International Airport -- which got 2.54 inches of rain and had some flooding on the roads in and around the facility.

No flooding has affected the runways, a Port Authority spokesman said.

The flooding disrupted service for commuter trains and the metro as well.

"Due to severe flooding throughout the subway system, there are extensive delays on all subway lines," said a statement from the Metro Transit Authority. "Customers are advised when at all possible to use bus service."

The Long Island Rail Road had delays of up to 30 minutes system-wide officials said.

PATH train service across northern New Jersey and the Newark Light Rail system was also disrupted.

PSEG electric company in New Jersey reported about 3,000 scattered power outages due to rain and wind, and Con-Ed reported 6,000 outages in New York City and Westchester due to the storms.

A heat advisory remains in effect for the New York City metro area, where the combination of high humidity from the morning's rainfall and afternoon temperatures in the 90s was expected to create heat indices around 100 degrees. See where heat can pose dangers »

As of 5:30 p.m. ET, the heat index at LaGuardia Airport was 101 degrees as the company that manages the power grid across much of the U.S. East Coast urged customers to cut back on their electricity consumption.

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PJM Interconnection said it was cutting back voltage by 5 percent.

The company runs the distribution network for electric power across 13 states and the District of Columbia, serving tens of millions of customers. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About John F. Kennedy International AirportTornadoes

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