Two tornadoes struck the outer edges of New York City on Saturday, hurling debris into the air and knocking out power in an area unaccustomed to the phenomenon. No serious injuries were reported when a twister hit a beachfront neighbourhood on Saturday and a second, stronger tornado followed moments later about 16 kilometres away.

Videos taken by bystanders showed a funnel sucking up water, then sand, and then small pieces of buildings as the first tornado moved through the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens. “I was showing videos of tornadoes to my 4-year-old on my phone, and two minutes later, it hit,” said Breezy Point neighbourhood resident Peter Maloney. “Just like they always say, it sounded like a train.”

The twisters were part of a system of strong storms that pummelled the East Coast, flooding the streets of some New England towns and leaving tens of thousands in the dark in the Washington, D.C. area. One person suffered minor injuries during a partial stage collapse at the Rosslyn Jazz Festival in Arlington County, Virginia.

At the Breezy Point Surf Club, the first tornado ripped the roofs off rows of cabanas, scattered deck chairs and left a heavy metal barbecue and propane tank sitting in the middle of a softball field.

The second twister hit to the northwest, in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn but also near the water, about seven minutes later.

Tornadoes are traditionally rare in the New York City area, but they have occurred with regularity in recent years. A small tornado uprooted trees on Long Island last month. In 2010, a September storm spawned two tornadoes that knocked down thousands of trees in Brooklyn and Queens.

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