National Weather Service officials say the tornado that struck Beacon Falls, Bethany and Hamden Tuesday evening transitioned into a microburst that took down trees and utility poles in the Wallingford area.
More than 20 Wallingford roads remained blocked as of Thursday afternoon, and schools will be closed for the third straight day today. Power was mostly restored in Cheshire by Thursday morning, and all roads in town have been cleared, according to public works officials.
National Weather Service spokesman Bill Goodman said the tornado, which traveled more than nine miles across Beacon Falls, Bethany and Hamden, weakened near Sleeping Giant State Park and morphed into a microburst.
The damage in the cities and towns north of Hamden is considered to be straight line wind damage, Goodman said.
“Tornadoes can have a life cycle that goes back and forth,” he said.
“We surveyed concentrated pockets of heavy damage,” he said. “It’s not to say that there wasn’t damage in other locations. It’s possible there was damage to other pockets but we’re not (surveying) there.”
The microburst was the second to strike the town in recent history. In June 2015, a microburst took down trees and utility poles on the east side of Wallingford and parts of Meriden, damaging homes and knocking out power for thousands of customers.
Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said 6,000 homes lost power Tuesday and and approximately 1,600 homes remained without power as of Thursday evening. He said the complete extent and cost of the damage is unclear.
”We still have multiple roads that still need to be cleared,” said Dickinson.
Wallingford Director of Public Utilities Rick Hendershot said total recovery of power could take as long as Monday.
Cori Zeuli lives on Raleigh Drive, part of the Pilgrims Harbor condominium complex. She said the power came back on early Thursday morning, and she was without power for almost 36 hours.
“It’s been insane,” she said Thursday.
Zeuli was forced to buy lanterns and coolers while the power was out, while her neighbors went to a hotel.
Dorothy Varipapa, also a Pilgrims Harbor resident, said she and her husband, Gene, tried to make the best of the past two days.
“It was horrible. But you know what? We deal with it,” she said. “We got up and we opened the garage door manually and we went down and we had something to eat and we had coffee and we came home. And we have a portable radio and he listened to his ball game.”
“They’re doing the best they can, they really are,” Dorothy Varipapa said. “We’re all in the same position, so there’s no use causing a lot of problems.”
Gene Varipapa described the storm as “vicious.”
“Words cannot describe it,” he said. “I’ve been an avid boater all my life...it was like the ocean was hitting the windows...I never in my life witnessed something like that and I hope to never do it again.”
He said the 2015 microburst was nothing like Tuesday’s storm.
In Cheshire, one business and 10 homes suffered significant damage from fallen trees, and Assistant Town Manager Arnett Talbot estimated the total cost of damage could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
”We’re not going to know for another week,” Talbot said. “We’re still doing cleanup and inferring the cost of the damage.”
Cheshire Director of Public Works George Noewatne said the southwest corner of town was “devastated” during the storm. All roads have been cleared of trees and wires and remain open.