BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A severe storm packing ferocious winds
tore through Connecticut's largest city Thursday, toppling trees
and power lines and collapsing several buildings as a powerful line
of storms swept across parts of the Northeast. Remarkably, no
serious injuries were reported.
Hundreds of bricks shook loose from buildings, trees split in
half and crushed cars, and a billboard hung precariously several
stories up over Main Street. Nine buildings were partially or fully
collapsed, including three on East Main Street that were brought to
their foundations. Rescuers searched the rubble to ensure no one
had been inside.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch declared a state of emergency after
the fast-moving system of driving rain and wind gusts that reached
78 miles per hour in the area.
Jacqueline Arroyo, 44, said she saw a black cloud and ran inside
to her third-floor apartment, where the window exploded. Trees were
blown so ferociously they appeared to be coming out of the ground,
and people were screaming, she said.
"All the wind started coming inside the house. I heard 'boom,
boom!"' she said. "It was so fast but terrifying."
A jail was without power, Finch said. The mayor urged residents
to stay indoors and remain calm, and Gov. M. Jodi Rell was
surveying damage to the city.
Fire Chief Brian Rooney said 25 people were taken to the
hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The American Red Cross
helped relocate 22 people, he said.
Rooney called it a miracle there was no loss of life.
"Anybody that was in the path of that storm would have been in
big trouble," he said.
A Catholic high school, a museum dedicated to P.T. Barnum and
several other buildings also had roof and window damage. Tree limbs
and power lines blocked traffic on some roads in Bridgeport, a
former industrial and manufacturing center of about 135,000
residents that has taken steps in recent years to revitalize areas
downtown and waterfront properties.
United Illuminating reported nearly 21,100 customers without
power after the storms, along with about 3,800 customers of
Connecticut Light & Power.
There were unconfirmed sightings of a tornado, Finch said. A
tornado warning had been issued for the area, but National Weather
Service meteorologist Richard Castro said the agency would have to
survey the area to confirm that one had hit.
Edward Beardsley said the noise of the storm hurt his ears and
the force of the wind sent him to the other end of his house.
"It was a noise I never heard before. The noise - it killed my
ears. My two cats still won't come out from under the bed."
Describing the storm, he said, "Everything was pitch black and
going in a circle down the road."
Winds that were part of a powerful storm gusted at 78 mph at
Sikorsky Memorial Airport at Stratford and blew over some planes.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said in a statement that he will
work with local, state and federal officials to help Bridgeport and
area towns obtain assistance, including help from the Federal
Emergency Management Agency if necessary.
The Connecticut storm was part of a system that destroyed a
historic town hall and other buildings in Edgerton, Ohio, the night
before, and brought torrential rains and high winds to the
Philadelphia area on Thursday afternoon.
The storm contributed to the collapse of a church and a banquet
hall in Philadelphia with no injuries reported, fire officials
Winds extensively damaged the roof of a day care center in
Primos-Secane, but no children were hurt, officials said.
Power was cut to thousands in the area.