COVENTRY — Stacie Fluckiger had never seen a tornado, but the pronounced, funnel-shaped swirl outside her window Wednesday night was unmistakable.
The damage outside her Depot Road home was further evidence: Nine fallen trees overlapping one another on the ground, a broken canopy tent flipped onto its side, sections of a fence uprooted and knocked down.
“I sat there inside and watched through the window as everything all tumbled around in a circle, like they were in the dryer,” she said.
Representatives from the National Weather Service traveled to the Andover-Coventry-Storrs area Thursday morning to examine the damage and investigate the storm, which they determined was an EF-1 tornado with maximum winds of 90 mph — the fourth tornado to hit Connecticut since July 1.
While no casualties were reported, the tornado knocked down power lines and dozens of trees, said Matt Doody, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass.
The tornado touched down in Andover Wednesday about 5:20 p.m. and traveled through Coventry about 11.2 miles until it reached Mansfield, where it landed at 5:51 p.m., Doody said.
The tornado was likely triggered by two weeks of high temperatures and humidity, which caused an unstable airmass similar to boiling water, Doody said. The airmass bubbles and creates thunderstorms, and increased humidity can pull the storm closer to the ground, he said.
The tornado entered Coventry near the intersection of Nathan Hale Road and Hill Road, and then traveled across to Melody Farm at 1000 South Street, where it hit and flattened a barn. It then tore roughly along Snake Hill Road until reaching the intersection of Main Street and Depot Road, where it brought down dozens of trees.
The storm then left Coventry and entered Mansfield, missing the town’s sewage treatment plant by just 50 feet. Had the plant been damaged, the town would have been pumping untreated sewage into the nearby Willimantic River, said John Elsesser, Coventry’s town manager.
“It’s not like you can go to the corner store and get a new sewer treatment plant,” Elsesser said.
Elsesser said the town was lucky that the tornado’s path moved across mostly open farmland and fields, hitting only a handful of homes and backyards.
Jodi Johnson of 36 Depot Road recalls seeing the tornado’s clouds gather into a funnel shape over her neighbor’s chimney through the window of her hair salon, Jodilynn & Company.
She said she ran around the salon in search of shelter before retreating to a bathtub.
“We started moving around in circles while the whole building shook,” she said. “We thought the roof was going to come up. It was so scary.”
A fallen tree just missed the corner of the salon.
Minimal damage occurred at her house next door, aside from uprooted pear and apple trees and a toppled fence. Her son and his girlfriend had retreated to the basement, and Johnson’s cats were safe in a closet.
“That’s all that matters,” she said. “No one was hurt.”
By Marwa Eltagouri, Hartford Courant