Tornado Confirmed in Bridgeport

The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado briefly touched down in the area of Main Street in Bridgeport about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the agency's website.

The tornado, with winds of 100 mph, also hit Nichols Street and Cedar Street, one block north of Interstate 95, the NWS reports. Its path was 100 yards wide and .15 miles long.

The damage reported in Easton and Trumbull was associated with straight-line wind and is not consistent with tornado damage, the statement says.

A team with the National Weather Service was in Bridgeport this morning, surveying the damage and tyring to determine what caused it, said Sean Potter, a communication specialist with the National Weather Service.

"They can tell just from looking at how those things occurred, how the trees were downed or how the damage from the building was spread out, what type of event caused this," said Potter.

The storm swept through the area about 2:30 p.m. Trees and power lines were knocked down in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Stratford, Norwalk, Easton and Trumbull. Planes were flipped over at Sikorsky Airport in Stratford.

The I-95 N/B exit 28 off ramp will remain closed today due to storm related damage on East Main Street in Bridgeport.

State police said troopers continue to assist the city of Bridgeport and the Bridgeport Police department with storm related issues.

A state police command post, an emergency operation center and numerous security posts manned by state police personnel have been established to provide security and assistance.

As of 10:20 a.m. today, there were more than 7,956 U.I customers in the immediate Bridgeport area without power and 16,875 U.I Customers throughout the U.I service area without power.

Lisa Matson, assistant principal of Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport, said she was interviewing a prospective student in her first-floor office Thursday when the roof of the three-story school was blown off.

"It was scary, but I have to be totally honest," Matson, of Stratford, said. "It was just one of those moments that takes you by surprise, but everybody was OK, and it's going to get repaired."

Bridgeport Mayor William Finch declared a state of emergency and ordered a 5:30 p.m. curfew. The city's streets were virtually covered in debris.

School let out last week at Kolbe Cathedral, and no one was on the top floor when the storm took off the roof. A handful of administrators and prospective students was inside, but everyone was able to wait in the hallways until the weather passed, Matson said.

The roof was open, with water pouring into the building Thursday afternoon, said Bryan Wallace, director of communications for the Bridgeport Archdiocese.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered a partial activation of Connecticut's Emergency Operations Center to help areas of the state affected by the storm.

Rell was in Bridgeport surveying the damage Thursday evening.

Residents initially wondered if a tornado had passed through.

"I don't know what it was," Fire Battalion Chief Keith Wallace said. "But whatever it was, it sucked the water right out of the toilets."

Two people were injured and several trees knocked down near Penbroke Street and Stratford Avenue, where a billboard fell onto a crumbling building.

Another building in the area of Congress and Knowlton streets, as well as the former Stratfield Hotel at 1241 Main St., partially collapsed, fire department Capt. Ed McCann said.

He said there were blown-out windows, uprooted trees and facades ripped off buildings. About 25 people sustained non life-threatening injuries, according to the fire department.

Initial reports that multiple people were injured at Derecktor Shipyard on Seaview Avenue were incorrect, according to a spokesperson at the company in an email. She said there was only one minor injury.

Bridgeport police also received several reports of people trapped in elevators because of power failures.

Weather also might have caused a barn fire on Bissell Road in Harwinton.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for parts of Fairfield and New Haven counties about 2:30 p.m. The warning expired at 2:45 p.m.

The band of storms also forced golfers at The Travelers Championship in Cromwell off the course for about 90 minutes.

Courant staff writer Hilda Muñoz and Courant photographer Patrick Raycraft contributed to this story.