A waterspout with winds up to 70 mph churned onshore and turned into a tornado toward Breezy Point, officials said, a Queens neighborhood on the western edge of the Rockaway peninsula.
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The funnel churned about 600 yards inland before dissipating, Dickman said. But it still had enough power to knock down trees and power lines, causing minor structural damage to nearby buildings.
A New York fire department official, who declined to be named citing official policy, said fire units deployed to the Breezy Point area in response to reports of overturned cars, broken windows and roof damage.
"It just got real windy and dark," said Juliana Santiago, who works at the Silver Gull Beach Club.
Roughly half a mile away, the Breezy Point Surf Club was damaged and closed after storms knocked out the power, said Santiago.
"I heard a big wind and heard a snapping of a utility pole," said Jim Brady, who said he watched as the storms rolled in at Breezy Point.
"It literally looked like the Wizard of Oz," said Jim Brady, a fellow witness.
A second confirmed tornado touched down in Brooklyn, another New York City borough, around 11:30 a.m., according to the weather service. This twister was about 50 yards wide as it traveled a half mile in Canarsie, about 9 miles north of the other reported tornado.
No one was killed or injured as a result of the Brooklyn tornado, which had 110 mph winds -- meaning it is categorized as a strong EF1, on a scale from EF0 to the most powerful EF5.
Tornado warnings and watches were in effect for much of the day across parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut before expiring Saturday night.
The harsh weather forced U.S. Open men's and women's singles tennis matches in Flushing Meadows, in the New York City borough of Queens, to be rescheduled to Sunday.
In 2010, three tornadoes ripped through New York City, knocking down trees and power lines and badly damaging several vehicles and buildings.
Heavy thunderstorms also whipped through the Washington, D.C., area on Saturday, leaving tens of thousands without power
Pepco reported 65,000 outages at one point. Dominion Virginia Power, on its Twitter feed, said it had restored electricity to 55,000 of 115,000 affected customers.
Twelve people at the Prince George's County Fair were injured as they tried to evacuate Show Place Arena, about 20 miles east of Washington in Maryland, due to pending severe weather, the National Weather Service said on its official Twitter feed.