Shirley Shopping Center Damaged As Possible Tornado Touches Down

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SHIRLEY, NY — The awning above a shopping center in Shirley was destroyed as a possible tornado touched down in Suffolk County on Saturday afternoon.

The awning appeared to have been ripped from the side of the building above a Chipotle chain, H&R Block, and Gerardo’s Pizzeria and it laid in a crumpled heap in the parking lot at about 4:30 p.m. Two cars parked nearby were also damaged. One car had damage consistent with a crash, while the other had a window blown out. Firefighters from the Mastic Fire Department and Suffolk police had the area cordoned off with yellow caution tape as they secured the property and checked for loose wires.

As news of the damage spread, the sight of the two popular eateries drew bystanders who drove by in their cars and some got out to snap photos for social media. Others gathered by shopping center employees as they waited for the all-clear to go back inside the store and asked them about their experiences.

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A Chipotle spokeswoman issue the following statement:” Earlier today, our restaurant in Shirley, N.Y. endured damages from a severe storm. All of our employees and guests were unharmed, and the location will remain temporarily closed until further notice.”

In a post to Facebook, the owners of Gerardo’s told followers the pizzeria would be closed due to “safety concerns” and vowed to keep them informed.

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“We apologize for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and employees is of the utmost importance to our values,” the post read.

A tree on a patch of grass at the corner of Montauk Highway and William Floyd Parkway was split in the storm.

It was pretty much business as usual as the grocery store’s customers continued to shop by accessing an entrance on the western portion of the shopping center’s property. But a tree behind the area had fallen and blocked an alleyway that is used for deliveries to the store.

Elsewhere in the area, there were some downed trees as well as debris, like political campaign signs, strewn on Montauk Highway and William Floyd Parkway. Loose wires hung from traffic lights, one of them so low that it was skimming the tops of cars as they passed in a lane near the railroad crossing.

The fast-moving thunderstorm toppled trees, caused power outages, and had people hunkering down inside their homes after tornado warnings were issued by the National Weather Service.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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