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NWS Confirms Tornado Struck Bridgeport

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Bridgeport, Conn. - The National Weather Service has confirmed that the storm that rocked Bridgeport Thursday evening was in fact, a tornado – and it sure looked like it.

The fast moving storm left such a massive path of destruction, with at least nine downtown buildings in ruins, cars smashed and trees toppled. In his 45 years of living in Bridgeport, the mayor has never seen anything like it.

Residents of Bridgeport, Conn. began what will undoubtedly be a long process of clean-up, repair and recovery on Friday after a severe summer storm rocked the city Thursday night.

In total, nine buildings were heavily damaged and 25 people were injured in the fast-moving storm. While none of the injuries were life-threatening, it is certain that many lives have been and will continue to be disrupted.

As of Friday morning there were 7600 homes without power in Connecticut's largest city, which was was under a state of emergency on Thursday after reports of building collapses and structural damage had parts of town blocked off. The state of emergency remained in effect Friday morning. 

The National Weather Service has yet to determine if what touched down in Bridgeport was just a devasting summer storm or if it was actually a tornado that rattled the city, left battered. Trees toppled onto homes and were blown over in city parks. There were lots of broken windows on buildings and on cars.

At 5:30 p.m. Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch declared the state of emergency and ordered all residents to stay home until further notice as city officials worked on wrapping their arms around the damage, which was in pockets all around the city. 

More than 57,000 United Illuminating customers were initially without power after the storm, which blew 78 mph wind gusts when it struck about 2:25 p.m. and pushed quickly through the town. 

"Destruction … destruction. I've never seen that. I've been living in the city of Bridgeport all my life and I've never seen nothing like this before in my life," one resident said. 

Another resident shot a video as the afternoon storm intensified. Many are convinced the violent burst of white blowing across the screen was a small tornado. The National Weather Service will make the final determination in the coming days.

"Actually, I thought the house was gonna cave in because all of a sudden the house just shake!" resident Clay Collier said. 

The wind blew a massive billboard structure off one building, scattering debris and sending bricks flying. It peeled the roof off 588 East Main St. Cadaver-sniffing dogs were brought in to see if anyone was trapped in the rubble. 

"We're gonna make a determination after we pick through the pile that there are no victims under it. We have search dogs," Bridgeport Fire Chief Keith Wallace said. 

Another roof collapse on Cannon Street meant a dozen apartments had to be evacuated for the night. 

"It stinks. It stinks really bad because we don't have a place to go tonight," resident Lisa Coulthirst said.

Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell was expected to be in Bridgeport on Thursday night. Thousands of residents were expected to spend the night without power, without air conditioning, as power crews rushed to get everyone back up and running.

CBS 2
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