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Storm fells hundreds of trees in Central Park

NEW YORK — Hundreds of century-old trees lay snapped in half and uprooted throughout Central Park on Wednesday after a severe thunderstorm with winds as high as 80 mph barreled through the city overnight.

"I've never seen a wind of that velocity in New York City," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said. "It looks like pictures that I've seen of war zones where artillery shells have shredded trees."

The storm swept through the area Tuesday night, snapping some of the park's famous American elm trees in half while uprooting others. Several parked cars were also destroyed when branches hurtled through the air and landed on them.

Steve Sherman, a 50-year-old photographer, cycled in Central Park on Wednesday morning and counted dozens of fallen trees. He compared the devastation to the aftermath of a tornado.

Midwest storms: Powerful winds slammed parts of four Midwestern states Wednesday, leaving behind shattered windows, toppled power lines and a handful of injuries. At least a half dozen suspected tornadoes were reported. The National Weather Service received reports of a possible tornado near downtown Minneapolis, where winds tore off part of a 90-year-old metal church steeple. Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois were also hit, though the only confirmed tornado was in Hastings, about 30 miles southeast of Minneapolis, where a 100-yard-long swath of trees was flattened.

Hurricane Bill: The season's first major hurricane hit Category 4 on Wednesday and its 135 mph winds could strengthen. Bill posed the most serious and immediate threat to Bermuda but, by week's end, a weaker but still formidable storm could move close to New England, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The storm is likely to track hundreds of miles from Florida and the Southeast coast, but the National Hurricane Center said Bill's impacts will be felt at beaches over the next few days in the form of dangerous surf and rip tides. At 5 p.m., Bill was churning northwest at 20 mph, some 335 miles from the Leeward Islands.

Storm fells hundreds of trees in Central Park 08/19/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 11:13pm]
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