Tornado in Sandisfield: 'You could hear all hell break out'

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SANDISFIELD — Charlie Pease was looking out from his front door on South Main Street about 7 p.m. Sunday.

A weather warning had been posted moments earlier, signaling a severe thunderstorm — and possible tornado — was moving across northwest Connecticut and right toward the Sandisfield village of New Boston.

The air was still. No rain.

But suddenly Pearce saw a funnel cloud and he began to hear trees snapping about a quarter-mile away. He and his wife, Laureen, quickly headed to the cellar of their nearly 170-year-old home.

“Fifteen seconds after we got below you could hear all hell break out,” he told The Eagle.

As quickly as the tornado passed over the Pease house, it headed toward Tolland and Blandford to the east.

The damage was minimal by tornado standards.

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“Two window sashes came lose and blew into the house,” Pease said. “It took shingles off an addition and the posts of the front entrance lifted up.”

Pease and several other South Main Street home and business owners had downed trees and some property damage, but escaped unharmed.

On Monday, the town’s highway crew was cutting up and removing downed trees and clearing other storm damage on or along local roads.

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As the cleanup continued, the National Weather Service from Albany, N.Y., and Boston each sent storm experts to the South Berkshire community to assess the damage pattern, key in determining if a tornado had indeed touched down.

“We are fairly confident a tornado occurred,” said Joe Villani, a meteorologist in the Albany office.

Investigators look at the pattern of damage, such as the fallen trees and damage to homes, rather than the amount of damage, to determine if it was caused by a tornado.

A meteorologist from the Boston office told an online news service Monday morning that around 7 p.m. Sunday, radar showed debris being lifted into the air. The postings on social media from eyewitnesses describing what they saw also points to “classic signs of a tornado,” said meteorologist Joe Dellicarpini.

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Late Monday, the National Weather Service confirmed it was an EF0 tornado — the weakest of six tornado strengths. The tornado had estimated maximum wind speeds of 80 mph, and a path that was about 100 yards wide and nearly eight miles long, crossing the communities of Sandisfield, Tolland and Blandford.

Megan Smigel said she and her three young daughters, and three adult family members, wasted no time taking cover after hearing the weather alert.

“Everything got dark, the wind picked up and that’s when we headed for the basement,” she told The Eagle on Monday.

The tornado toppled a large pine tree, but otherwise caused no other serious damage on the Smigel property.

“We got very lucky,” she said.

This story has been updated to include National Weather Service confirmation of the tornado and its path.


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