Severe storms swept across the Northeast and tore through Connecticut's largest city Thursday, downing trees and power lines, shattering windows, toppling church steeples and leaving at least one person seriously injured.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch declared a state of emergency after the suspected tornado caused widespread damage and left one person in critical condition. A micro burst in parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties caused power outages, downed trees and knocked the LIRR Port Washington and Oyster Bay lines out of service and caused delays on other lines.
"This was a very powerful storm,'' Finch said. "We're just going to have to get through this like we have to get through everything.''
Bridgeport, which has struggled with poverty, crime and political corruption while making progress with sports stadiums and downtown developments, is used to setbacks. Now the city can add a severe storm packing ferocious winds to its list of woes. National Weather Service officials say they'll be surveying damage in the city to determine if it was a tornado that caused the widespread damage.
A fireworks display planned for tomorrow has been canceled because emergency workers are needed to cope with the destruction left in the wake of the storm. Hundreds of bricks shook loose from buildings, trees split in half and crushed cars and a billboard hung precariously several stories up over Main Street. Nine buildings were partially or fully collapsed, including at least three that were brought to their foundations. Rescuers searched the rubble to ensure no one had been inside.
In Connecticut, United Illuminating reported more than 16,000 customers without power after the storms, along with about 3,800 customers of Connecticut Light & Power. Long Island was hardest hit in New York, particularly North Hempstead and Great Neck. About 14,000 Long Island Power Authority customers were without electricity on Friday, including more than 3,000 in Great Neck
But the city wasn't whacked nearly as hard as parts of Connecticut.
Jacqueline Arroyo, 44, said she saw a black cloud and ran inside to her third-floor apartment, where the window exploded. Trees were blown so ferociously they appeared to be coming out of the ground, and people were screaming, she said.
"All the wind started coming inside the house. I heard 'boom, boom!'" she said. "It was so fast but terrifying."
A jail is without power, and there were reports of people stuck in elevators, Finch said.
Rescuers were searching a downtown building after it collapsed during the storm, and state police were sending out a police dog to help search for anyone inside.
A Catholic high school, a museum dedicated to P.T. Barnum and several other buildings also had roof and window damage. Tree limbs and power lines blocked traffic on some roads in Bridgeport, a former industrial and manufacturing center of about 135,000 residents that has taken steps in recent years to revitalize areas downtown and waterfront properties.
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