Fairfield storm damage 'routine' as near-tornado wallops Westport
Published 12:34 pm, Friday, July 23, 2010
It may not have officially been classified as a tornado, but the storm burst unleashed in Westport by a pounding line of thunderstorms Wednesday night was as close to the real thing as most residents ever want to be.
Westport, along with nearby Wilton, appeared hardest hit by the latest in a wave of severe summer storms to sweep across the region.
Although no serious injuries were reported, thousands lost power and fallen trees blocked roads and damaged property.
At the height of the storm, Connecticut Light & Power reported that more than 64,000 customers across the state lost power during the thunderstorms.
In Westport, more than 4,000 customers -- about one-third of the town -- was blacked out, and outages continued well into Thursday. By 1 p.m., more than 2,300 customers in town still had no power.
The storms appeared to hit the Westport-Wilton-Norwalk area hardest, leaving a total of 8,709 customers there without power last night.
In Fairfield, 3,655 customers were left in the dark immediately after the storm, but the scope of damage was termed fairly routine for a strong thunderstorm, according to fire officials. And by 1 p.m. Thursday, all but one outage had been repaired in that town, according to United Illuminating.
But the early reports that the thunderstorms triggered a tornado in Westport -- including a CodeRED phone alert to residents warning of an approaching tornado -- were discounted by meteorologists Thursday.
Morrin said that interviews with town officials, video footage of the storm and radar surveillance all suggest that Fairfield and New Haven counties weren't hit by a twister, so a team of surveyors will not be dispatched for closer research.
However, a tornado may have torn through parts of Litchfield County, and a team of surveyors from Albany, N.Y., was deployed to assess the damage.
"We do have some reports from Fairfield County that are fairly impressive," Phil Bachmann, an NWS meteorologist said Wednesday night, citing trees snapped off several feet from the ground in Westport, 1.75-inch hail in Stamford and 1-inch hail in Monroe.
"Tornados are very localized events." Bachmann added, noting that hail 1 inch and bigger is considered "severe" by the weather service, since it can cause serious damage to property and endanger life.
Nickel-sized hail was reported in Wilton, he added.
Nearly 200 CL&P crews were working on repairs, including 140 crews from outside CL&P, the company reported. An additional 95 crews were scheduled to return to work after 3 p.m.
"Overnight, we made significant progress in restoring power to our customers who were affected by Wednesday's severe thunderstorms. We will continue working as quickly and safely as possible throughout the day and night until all customers have been restored," Jeff Butler, CL&P's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.
CL&P customers who have not already reported power outages should call 800-286-2000 and use the automated system.