National Weather Service officials determined that Tuesday’s microburst brought 100 mph winds along a 7-mile path from Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden to the Tyler Mill Preserve in Wallingford, uprooting trees, snapping utility poles and damaging homes.
NWS reports that a tornado, which caused damage on a 9-mile path from Beacon Falls to Hamden, transitioned to a microburst near Wallingford, bringing 100 mph winds along a path 7 miles long and a half-mile wide from Sleeping Giant State Park, across Wharton Brook State Park, to an area just east of Tyler Mill.
“Extensive damage occurred, with numerous pine trees uprooted and snapped,” NWS officials said in a statement late Thursday.
Spokesman Bill Goodman said tornadoes can “have a life cycle that goes back and forth.”
Gary Lessor, meteorologist with the Weather Center at Western State Connecticut University, said damage would have been “without a doubt” worse if the microburst had hit more residential areas.
“When you get involved in residential, the damage becomes exponentially higher, especially in dollars and cents,” Lessor said. “The best scenario happened — it went through woods, it went through parks.”
Only two Wallingford roads remained impassable, which officials expected to reopen by midnight Friday. Schools were closed for the third straight day Friday.
As of Friday evening, about 1,000 customers were still without power.
“We estimate that we were 6,500 (outages) at the peak,” Hendershot said. The town Electric Division serves about 25,000 customers.
Hendershot said power will likely be restored by end of day Sunday, but cautioned efforts may stretch into Monday.
He said Tuesday’s storm broke around 40 utility poles, about 20 more than Hurricane Irene damaged in 2011. This week’s microburst was the worst storm in terms of power outages and broken poles that Hendershot has seen in the 14 years he’s been with the department, he said.
The microburst was determined to have sustained winds of 100 mph, which are 10 mph less than an EF1 Tornado. Lessor said the 10 mph difference is “insignificant” when it comes to damage.
“Because (microbursts and macrobursts) are wider in path, they typically end up doing more damage, or at least have the potential to be doing more damage,” Lessor said, comparing microbursts to tornados.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said Friday Sleeping Giant State Park and Wharton Brook State Park remain closed. Several local parks, including Tyler Mill Preserve, Pire Park on Northfield Road, Wallace Park, Marcus Cooke Park and Lufbery Park have also been closed.
“For the safety of the general public and the crews working to clear the parks, it is imperative that only authorized personnel enter the parks at this time,” DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen said. “EnCon officers have increased patrols of the closed parks. Failure to obey the closures of these parks could result in an infraction or arrest for trespassing.”
Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust president Jerry Farrell Jr. said the Franklin Johnson Mansion/Silver Museum, 153 S. Main St., will not host an open house this weekend due to storm damage. Instead, Farrell is asking for volunteers to assist in cleanup efforts Sunday.
“We have major branches down — so chainsaws, wood chippers, pickup trucks and rakes would be very helpful,” he said in an email.
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.
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