First responders and utility crews scrambled from call to call across the state Tuesday as heavy rains and strong winds from Tropical Storm Isaias battered the region, toppling trees and power lines and closings roads.
Tornado warnings sprung up across western Connecticut as wind gusts reached 70 miles per hour.
“Last minute efforts to protect life and property should now be complete. The area remains subject to significant wind damage,” the latest tropical storm warning from the National Weather Service.
A tornado watch issued for the state was in effect until 9 p.m. Tuesday. Areas of southern New York including Long Island and New York city were also under tornado watches, along with areas of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
As of 4 p.m., Eversource was reporting 214,204 people without power, while United Illuminating had more than 86,000 in the dark.
“It’s crazy out here,” Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said as he drove around the downtown area.
Some 70 trees were down in that city as of 3 p.m. Transformers had blown up on Main Street and Mill Plain Road. Crews were also trying to rescue a person trapped in a car on Joes Hill Road, he said.
Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said wind caused a downtown building to partially collapse, resulting in a “major gas leak.” He said Tthe brick on the north wall of the old Vaghi woodworking building came down onto the roof of the Village Square building off of Elizabeth Street, adding that nobody was injured.
“It looks like it (the wind) got under the lip of the roof line and just peeled off that whole wall,” Knickerbocker said. “It just came right off.”
Firefighters stood by in five trucks around 2:50 p.m in case flames broke out as they waited for Eversource to fix the gas leak. Nearby Greenwood Avenue and South Street were blocked off due to the fire hoses.
Knickerbocker said multiple trees were down on the nearby railroad tracks and around town.
“This is really a lot,” Knickerbocker said. “The damage here is a lot more widespread than we saw with the macroburst a couple years ago.”
In Stamford, a 65-foot sailboat broke loose was thrown on the rocks on the east side of Dolphin Cove, while widespread power outages were reported, with 8,300 customers out of service.
Trees were reported to have crashed into homes in the city, and several cars were reported to be beneath felled wires.
“Please do not travel unless you absolutely have to,” police in Neighboring Greenwich tweeted at 2:35 p.m. “The high winds are still bringing trees down. Multiple cars have been struck by falling limbs around town. Many of the (trees) are entangled with power lines. It’s not worth risking your life for.”
Norwalk police issued a similar warning for people to stay indoors. In Bridgeport, firefighters scrambled to keep up with calls about wires and trees down, as well as trees and tree limbs coming down on houses.
All DMV branches in the state were closed as of 3:45 P.M.
Boughton said he expects it will take several days, if not weeks, to clean up from the storm.
Officials, business owners and residents in towns and cities across the state spent the hours before the storm’s arrival making preparations to keep people safe.
Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said the town had three United Illuminating Company line crews working. At 4:20 p.m., she said the town had 175 calls in the queue for service.
In Westport, businesses made accommodations for the incoming storm with some closing early and flood barriers being erected on Main Street.
Fleet Feet owner Dave Wright said his store would close at 3 p.m. in anticipation of the storm. But Wright was not unfamiliar with handling these type of scenarios.
He said two years ago his business was impacted by a severe storm and faced flooding.
“The week I signed the lease it was about two feet up the side of the wall,” he recalled. “It was an extraordinary event though. It was like 10 inches of rain.”
In East Haven, Mayor Joseph Carfora, Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Matt Marcarelli and Police Chief Ed Lennon said emergency management staff met with the town’s Public Services Department to ensure they were in a state of readiness for storm response and recovery.
All personnel were placed on alert that they may be expected to work extended hours to clear roads of debris and downed trees, the town officials said in a release. Trucks were fueled and town buildings prepared for the storm.
In the event of a need for relocation or evacuation, designated shelters were prepared, the locations of which to be announced, Carfora said.
Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company reported it was operating at multiple incidents all over town Tuesday afternoon. Several roads were closed, including Route 25, Stony Hill Road and North Mountain Road.
“Please stay home and off the roads,” the department wrote on Facebook. “Stay away from any guardrail as it may be energized. Any downed wire is to be considered live at this point.”
In Danbury, Boughton sent a text notification and called residents with a pre-recorded message through the city’s emergency alert system notifying them of the impending weather.
Stamford city officials opened up the city’s Emergency Operations Center.
Public Safety Director Ted Jankowski said Stamford High School was being readied as an emergency shelter from the storm.
Jankowski said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was manning the Hurricane Barrier on the east branch of Stamford Harbor in order to close the huge sea door if a storm surge arrived in Stamford. Jankowski said there was a “high probability” that the barrier will be closed at about 1 p.m.
Jankowski said staffing increases for police and firefighters would be made as needed.
Norwalk officials said flooding is a common concern in the city.
Anywhere in Norwalk near the water has a history of flooding, said Jimmy Sotiropoulous, manager of Harbor Lights.
The city’s Seaview Avenue Restaurant, which lives up to its name, took extra care to prepare for Tropical Storm Isaias by tying down its windows and awnings and shutting down half the parking lot in case of flooding.
The restaurant also shut down outdoor dining for the day and removed all outdoor furniture in preparation of high winds expected with the storm.
Isaias made landfall in the Carolinas overnight as a Category 1 hurricane, but weakened to a tropical storm over eastern North Carolina around 3 a.m.
Along with heavy rainfall, the storm brought a threat of tornadoes to the mid-Atlantic region as it moved inland early Tuesday.