Thunderstorm Aftermath

Parts of Maplewood are nothing less than a disaster area this morning. Power is out in much of town, and PSE&G is talking about 2-3 days for it to be restored. And no wonder. There are countless trees and lines down all over town. It appears that a small tornado touched down on one block. Here are photos that Claire and I took last night and this morning. Zoom in two levels on this map and you can see all the street names.

191, Parker Avenue, Maplewood, Essex County, New Jersey, 07040, United States of America

It’s hard to take a picture of a nighttime storm like this, but here’s what it felt like:

The storm passed through very quickly. By 10:00 it was all over and things had quieted down except for the constant sirens from passing emergency vehicles. Then at 11:00 the power went out, and stayed out. This morning, we went on a walking tour of the neighborhood and here’s what we saw. Follow along on the map after you’ve zoomed in two clicks.

First up, from our back deck, this is our neighbor Ann’s backyard. She lives north on Boyden Ave. one house. A tree has fallen across it, though not a particularly big one.

Walking west on Parker Ave., the first street is Briarcliff Ct. A biggish tree had fallen, and someone had already managed to cut it up for removal. You can see what it’s done to the sidewalk.

This is just the first of a series of streets, all blocked off because of fallen trees. This lovely old home on a double lot had some big branches fall off, but fortunately no damage. It’s on the south side of Parker, between Briarcliff and Coolidge.

Amid all this craziness, there are pockets of untouched normalcy. This flower garden, complete with flags, is just across the street from the above.

You’d get the impression nothing happened. One more block up, here’s Coolidge Rd. looking north. Police sawhorses block the street on both ends — this one took down some power lines.

One more block up is Hudson Ave.. Same deal:

Then Union Ave. Warren Rd., south of Parker, was also blocked.

Getting the picture? Almost every street in the neighborhood is blocked. One more street up and across the way is Highland Ave.

When I got as far as Suffolk, I began to see the real scope of what went on last night. The blocked streets I’d seen so far were child’s play. This one had fallen back onto the house next door. A couple local kids are making the best of a day when the schools are closed by beating the roots with sticks and splashing in the muddy water.

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A little further up is the source of our power outage. An unlucky guy driving his pickup truck had not just a huge London plane tree fall on him, but also a utility pole.

First of all, he got out OK. Lucky guy after all. But yes, that’s a transformer sitting on the roof of the cab. It took the power company an hour to get there to turn off the juice, putting it right around 11:00. And then another hour and a half to extricate him. I was chatting with some of the many neighborhood residents standing out in groups on their lawns. One said she stood outside the truck talking to him while waiting for help. He said he heard buzzing over his head, but she didn’t tell him what it was, just that he shouldn’t try and get out of the truck. You can see the lines draped over and curled up right next to the doors. They were strewn like ribbons all across the lawns and the fronts of houses on this block.

Tornado, Or What?

The real devastation is up on Midland Blvd., on the first block east of Summit. Here’s Summit between Midland and Elmwood:

And looking east from the intersection of Midland and Summit. Midland is a divided boulevard-style road, with decorative stone entranceways with planters on top, and a grass- and tree-lined median.

It’s so bad that you literally can’t see how bad it is. The street is screened by so many large fallen trees that you can only see few houses down. Incredibly, if standing where these pictures were taken from and turning 180 degrees around, the houses and trees are untouched.

We dodged a bullet. The damage cut a diagonal swath across the neighborhood that just missed us. We had a few branches blow up onto our sidewalk, nothing I couldn’t pick up and move myself; and a few leaves on the lawn.

9 thoughts on “Thunderstorm Aftermath”

  1. Whoa! This is incredible. Huge trees are uprooted
    and utility poles drop like flies but homes
    don’t lose their roofs unless a tree falls on them??? Now how does that happen exactly?

  2. People are coming to a consensus that it was a microburst, “a very localized column of sinking air, producing damaging divergent and straight-line winds at the surface that are similar to but distinguishable from tornadoes.” Here’s a photo someone posted on MOL of that one block on Elmwood, which is ripped up from one end to the other:

    I went by there yesterday afternoon, and some were still literally trapped in their homes because of the downed wires.

    Our power finally came back on this morning around 5:30. That’s 30:30 without electricity, the longest this boy’s ever been without a place to plug in the stereo.

  3. To all MOLers, I do hope all of you recover from what looks like a horrible storm.
    Regards to you all, and best of luck in your recovery phase.
    I miss chatting with you all!!!


  4. I miss you too, Tulip, and thanks for writing. The cleanup is going to take a while, this morning there were still streets that DPW hadn’t even begun to clear.

  5. Just got back from a bike ride. Three counties, a dozen towns, hilltops, valleys, forest, suburb and what did I see in the way of damage? Outside of Maplewood, nothing. A few leaves and twigs but that’s about it. Not a single road closed (I counted a half-dozen still closed here) either. Amazing how i just nailed this one town.

  6. My sister who lives in Maplewood sent me this site – looks like extreme damage in a localized area. I live in California, earthquake country, 1/4 mile off a fault, so I’ve seen this before.

    You just don’t expect it in a place like Maplewood like you do in Alameda County.

  7. Is everyone ok? You guys and all your neighbors?

    I don’t quite get how the microburst works. Never heard the term before. Never heard of anything like this before. But man alive, that sucker took out those trees like it was plucking daisies. What a wierd phenomenon.

  8. It’s amazing, but I don’t think anyone was even injured.

    One of my daughter’s friends was caught driving in it, and saw a tree fall on the car in front of her. She ditched the car and ran home, with trees and power lines exploding around her. But she was OK, just shaken up. The “microburst” is related to the “wind shear” that sometimes crashes airplanes, but more concentrated.

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