Powerful storm tears through area

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

Heavy rains and strong winds moved through the area on Thursday leaving some destruction in its wake including a tree that split and fell on the cart barn at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

A powerful storm took down trees and wires Thursday afternoon, knocking out power to tens of thousands of people across the state.

Naugatuck officials opened the borough’s emergency operations center at fire headquarters downtown and were busy assessing the damage Thursday night.

As of 6 p.m., Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said there were about 15 cases of trees down entangled with wires, another 10 or so trees down, and about eight incidents of wires down. He said officials were waiting on Eversource Energy for the incidents with wires down, but public works crews are out clearing other areas of the borough.

“We’re doing everything we can do now,” Hess said.

Naugatuck Fire Chief Paul Russell said trees fell on two houses: one on Chestnut Street and another on Margaret Circle.

No injuries were reported, officials said.

As of 7:30 p.m., Eversource reported there were 1,541, about 10%, Naugatuck customers without power.

Several trees came down at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck, including a large one that fell on the barn where about 40 golf carts are stored. The tree also took down wires and knocked out power at the golf course.

Hop Brook golf pro Bryan Nixon said it didn’t look like the tree went through the roof of the barn. He was waiting on Eversource to respond to cut power to the wires and said it was too early to tell the extent of the damage.

Nixon said one worker was at the course at the time and no golfers were out on the course. He’s hoping to reopen the course Friday, but said he won’t know until the morning.

“We hope to be. Golf business is very, very busy right now,” Nixon said. “I’ve had a couple calls already about people wanting to know if we’re going to be open. We’re going to try everything we can to open the course.”

Prospect was hit hard by the storm, as well. As of 7:30 p.m., 919 customers, about 21% of the town, were without power.

As of 6 p.m., Ed Malaspina, a firefighter and public information officer with the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department, said six roads were impassable in town and there were more than 10 incidents of wires down. He said a tree fell on one house. No injuries, fires or car accidents were reported.

“We’re all working hard to get the roads cleared,” he said.

In Beacon Falls, 172 customers, about 6%, were without power as of 7:30 p.m. Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 received a handle of calls as a result of the storm, and only a section Munson Road is closed due to a tree on wires.

The damage from the storm was caused by straight-line winds and possibly tornadoes, according to independent meteorologist John Bagioni, who runs Fax Alert Weather Service in Burlington. Bagioni expects the National Weather Service will investigate potential evidence of tornadoes in the state, particularly in the Hamden-North Haven area.

“You can see clear evidence of straight-line wind damage, and there are hints of tornadic damage, rotational damage,” Bagioni said.

Thursday’s conditions were a textbook setup for a severe storm. A cold front advancing from the north met an existing mass of warm, moist air, which pushed the warmer air aloft.

“It quickly got lifted to a high level of the atmosphere, where you had a strong jet stream helping to rotate it,” Bagioni said. “That’s a recipe for tornadic action.”

Some of the damage reported suggests wind speeds of as high as 65 mph, according to Bagioni, who added, “When the assessment is done, it might be even higher.”

The Republican-American contributed to this report.