We walked out into the beginning of a thunderstorm late this afternoon, to shop for dinner, and as we walked the light turned abruptly, from late afternoon to dark night and then to green-yellow.
For context, if you're not from these parts, the sun is usually shining at 5.29 pm, this time of year.
Lightning overhead and the photographer trotted back home to get his camera.
I turned onto Atlantic Avenue and as I walked the storm raced up behind me.
Within seconds the air was filled with flying water. Soaked from the waist down I abandoned picture-taking and dashed sideways into the laundromat to take cover with other wet citizens. Looking out of the floor to ceiling plate glass windows we saw successive walls of grey water sweeping west to east and small branches and hail scattering onto the sidewalk. I've never seen wind and water so fast.
Then it was over. It might have lasted 30 seconds.
I walked out into steady rain, falling vertically, as it should, and met Vince hooded in his rainjacket. He'd missed it all.
All the shops along the avenue were buzzing about it as we arrived, buying a hot baguette, green lentils and freshly ground Mocha Java from Sahadi's, where Vince stood in the doorway to see the rain...Charlie Sahadi was still excited about seeing a flying trashcan hit a car.
By the time we bought our pistachio mamool at Damascus Bakery and last minute samoosa snack, it was just drizzling from an intense, purple sky.
Finally, under thick cloud and in beautiful light, rainless, we entered Mr Lee's for vegetables for tonight's roasted vegetable dinner. By the time we bought wine, it was a nice evening.
I was too awestruck to videotape it through the laundromat glass, and wish I had. Someone posted a video on YouTube, which shows the storm on the right pretty much where we would have been, I think. A short Times article*contradicts itself about whether it was a tornado or not: A caption says yes, the article [constantly updating as they get more info and images] says nothing confirmed.
Whatever it was, it was spectacular.
Update: 7.53pm - The Times' tornado caption has just been removed.
The Times' City Room has photos from readers, showing that we got off easy.
As for the tornado warnings that the Times reports were issued by the National Weather Service, we were watching two online weather channels until the moment we left the house, and saw no warnings...
All the pots on the roof farm are safe, and no flying fig trees took off from the terrace. If what chased me up Atlantic had been over two blocks there would be no more terrace garden.
From NYTimes, more photos of the Brooklyn and Queens Storm
9/18/10 - National Weather Service confirms that two tornadoes touched down, in Brooklyn and Queens.