National Weather Service Confirms Two Tornadoes Monday

Part of the Sports World dome near exit 44 on I-91 in East Windsor blew into the southbound lanes of the highway, officials said. (JOHN WOIKE)

A tornado lashed its way across Windsor, Windsor Locks and East Windsor Monday afternoon, toppling trees, taking down power lines, tearing apart an inflatable sports dome and ripping tobacco netting from fields and draping it across houses and I-91.

Only one minor injury was reported — the driver of a truck that was knocked over by the storm in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart store in East Windsor. A second truck was tossed onto its side on I-91.

The National Weather Service, in a preliminary statement, said the tornado touched down near Hayden Station Road in Windsor and moved 2.25 miles across Windsor Locks and into East Windsor. Wind speeds reached 90 mph and the storm's width was about 200 yards, the weather service said. The weather service said the tornado was rated an EF1.

A tornado also touched down in Greenwich and Stamford earlier Monday, the National Weather Service in New York reported Tuesday afternoon. There were no injuries.

Several streets in Windsor Locks were impassable with trees and power lines down. Windsor Locks officials limited access to the neighborhoods because of concern about power lines that were still energized. Connecticut Light and Power Co. crews worked late into the night and had restored power to area customers by dawn.

Netting ripped from the O.J. Thrall Inc. tobacco fields along Kennedy Road and Hayden Station Road in Windsor was carried up to 2 miles, across Windsor Locks, the Connecticut River and I-91. Video captured by a motorist on I-91 showed long sections of netting floating through the sky. Pieces of the Sports World dome in East Windsor, which sits adjacent to the highway, were also ripped up by the storm and thrown across the highway. Traffic came to a standstill at one point.

Twenty nine campers and five counselors were at a summer camp program inside the dome at Sports World in East Windsor when the camp director, Kathy Russotto, received a message on her phone that a tornado warning had been issued.

"Within 10 seconds a very heavy rain started," Russotto said Monday afternoon. "I went into the dome [and] whistled for the kids." The children were hustled from the dome into an adjacent building and told to get under tables. "There was a little 5-year-old. I had a counselor pick him up because I could see the dome starting to move, which is very uncommon."

Russotto was the last person out of the dome. "As soon as we got them under the tables, I heard the noise behind us. I looked out and the dome was gone. It was just a horrendous noise. I can't even articulate what it sounded like."

"I saw the bubble start shaking and that's when I got really scared," said Dillon Morando, 12, who was attending the Sports World camp. "I was right in the door when I heard it pop. That's when I ran under the table."

One of Sports World's owners, Kate Muratore, said she was relieved everyone was OK. And she called Russotto a hero for getting the kids and staff to safety.

"I just did what you're supposed to do," Russotto said.

In Windsor Locks, much of the damage ran in a line from the Windsor tobacco fields, into the Raymond Road, Alicia Terrace neighborhood, across Gaylord Road, Preston Road and Bel-Aire Circle, across the Windsor Locks public works yard and then across the Connecticut River and into East Windsor.

In Windsor Locks residents reported hearing a sound like a freight train, seeing the air turn an odd color, and the sky full of debris.

"It sounded like a train," said MJ Perry, 9, who was with his grandfather Mike Smith's house on South Center Street. "The sky was a weird gray color," Smith said.

Diane Smith said her daughter spotted the tobacco nets flying by and dropping onto her property. "She said look behind you," Smith recalled. "They nets were flying like leaves." The air turned a greenish-brown color as the storm moved through, she said. The air — you couldn't see through it."

Across South Elm Street, Sebastian Fiume was napping in his window when the storm woke him up.

The 85-year-old retired Teamster said he was stunned to see tobacco netting falling from the sky and draping the trees and power lines around his house.

Over on Gaylord Road neighbors Paul Rucci, Joe Karas and Roger Holcomb were trying to get some of the netting off Holcomb's roof. It had wrapped itself around his television dish and damaged the roof.

Rucci said the storm knocked down a tree in his yard and lifted his shed and tossed it.