[Update 3: 4:40am ET] Watch for flying taxis:
The National Weather Service has briefly issued a tornado warning for Brooklyn and Queens in New York City as Hurricane Irene heads for the city.
The agency said radar had spotted rotating clouds in a severe thunderstorm approaching the area before 4 a.m. Sunday. The agency says the warning expired at 4:15 a.m. Sunday with a report of a toppled tree in the area but no immediate confirmation of any tornadoes.
A tornado watch remains in effect until 5 a.m. Sunday for New York City, Long Island and southern Connecticut. A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form.
[Update 1: 1:45am Eastern] Our own DTOzone has this from NYC:
I don’t know if anyone else is in NYC right now
but this is fucking nuts. I’ve never seen anything like this.
[Update 2: 2:45am Eastern] Jerusalem Post has updates within the last hour on both DTO’s NYC and Our Kysen’s Virginia Beach:
BATTERY PARK, NEW YORK – Lower Manhattan was almost entirely devoid of people early Sunday morning as the much-anticipated Hurricane Irene battered the city from the south.
Violent winds and heavy rain swept through the empty streets of the Financial District which had been evacuated by order of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg together with other low-lying parts of the city because of the risk of flooding.
Rabbi Israel Zoberman of Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach was at home on Saturday afternoon bracing for the arrival of the category 1 storm projected to pass within a few dozen miles of the city.
“I must tell you the sense of hopelessness you have is an amazing feeling,” he said over the phone from the coastal town. “If you are on the oceanfront or other parts of the city you cannot walk. The wind will knock you down. The boardwalk is in danger from the waters of the ocean that have penetrated quite far out.”
The Reform rabbi said members of the Virginia Beach’s Jewish community were safe indoors and that so far there little damage had been wrought by the storm.
“We’ve had some floods in the area and we lost power early in the day for a short time but there are a lot of people without power in the state,” Zoberman said.