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Powerful Storms Bring Widespread Wind Damage to Southern New England

A powerful line of thunderstorms moved through southern New England Wednesday evening into the night. This line of thunderstorms began well inside New York in the evening before pushing through southern New England, exiting the South Shore just after midnight last night.

While torrential rain fell with these storms, the main issue was intense winds. Major and widespread tree damage occurred from a line extending from eastern Pennsylvania right through the Massachusetts South Shore. The strongest gust recorded in this line was 77mph in Windsor Locks, Connecticut with a gust reaching 75mph in Danielson. Numerous cases of downed trees and power lines were reported across Connecticut, Rhode Island and the Massachusetts South Shore.

Storm reports from last night showing the expansive swath of wind damage reports:

In Avon, Connecticut, 'significant' tree damage was reported with several 12 inch diameter trees knocked down. In several areas, trees fell on homes and cars. In Windsor, a tree fell onto a home and trapped a toddler in their bedroom. The toddler was removed from the house by firefighters and did not sustain any serious injuries. A man was tragically killed by a falling tree in Willimantic.

Trees were reported to have hit homes in Norwich, CT; Lincoln, RI; Cumberland, RI; Attleborough, MA; Raynham, MA and Pembroke, MA. In Lincoln, Rhode Island, people were reported to be stranded at a restaurant after a large tree fell across the roadway, blocking it. In Central Falls, Rhode Island, a tree knocked a chimney down. In Pawtucket, high tension wires were brought down.

Photo credits: NBC Connecticut; Mathew Hubley; Jason Rogler; John Bagioni; Carlos R. Munoz

Naturally, all of this led to numerous power outages in New England's southern tier. Shortly after sunrise, around 75,000 were without power in New England, with well over a quarter million without power across the entire northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Outages will likely slowly drop through the day. Some of the hardest hit areas may be out for a while. Outages remained near 75,000 as of 8:45am.

As these storms moved through, increasingly serious Severe Thunderstorm Warnings were issued by the National Weather Service. Shortly after the 77mph gust at Bradley Airport, the National Weather Service began issuing warnings for winds up to 80mph. The service called the situation 'extremely dangerous', rare wording for a severe thunderstorm in New England producing straight-line winds.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued for central Connecticut and southern Massachusetts around 10:30pm last night:

Despite being hours after sunset, the line of storms held together and did not lose much of any strength as it traversed from the New York border right through the South Shore. At midnight, the National Weather Service issued a warning for 80mph wind gusts for Plymouth County, Massachusetts right up to the ocean. 

As these storms moved through Rhode Island and into Massachusetts, straight-line winds were not the only issue. Some cells began to rotate with a tornado warning issued just north of Providence and stretching toward Taunton, MA. Based on radar signatures, there very well could have been a tornado (or tornadoes) on the ground, but this will need to be verified by the National Weather Service.

The line of storms quickly swept through the region, entering into Connecticut from New York just before 9pm and exiting the South Shore just after midnight. The line began to form a ‘bow echo’ on radar, where the middle of the line begins to bulge outward, taking the shape of a bow and arrow. This is a clear indication of strong, damaging winds within the storms.

The line of storms as it moved across the southern tier of New England last night:

The entire storm complex also brought torrential rainfall that resulted in some flash flooding. Earlier in the evening, a line of storms broke out across central Massachusetts, leading to instances of street flooding and stranded cars from Worcester to Boston. The Boston Metro area saw two separate flash flood warnings issued yesterday evening and night.

This event had some characteristics of a ‘derecho’, which is defined as a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. While the specific criteria for a derecho can be a point of contention, the NOAA’s updated 2022 criteria have the squall line needing to travel at least 400 miles and contain frequent gusts of 58mph or greater with several gusts of at least 75mph.

The National Weather Service says an event can be classified as a derecho “if the wind damage swath extends more than 240 miles (about 400 kilometers) and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph (93 km/h) or greater along most of its length.” Regardless of the specific criteria, it’s up to the National Weather Service to officially classify as a derecho or not.



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