At around 4 p.m. on Thursday, August 27th, an EF1 tornado ripped through northern and central Hamden on its way from Bethany to North Haven, where it achieved its greatest strength before fizzling out at the Long Island Sound coastline.
With estimated wind speeds exceeding 100 mph, and traveling about 60 mph, the tornado was on the ground for a total of only ten minutes from when it formed in Bethany until it broke up in North Haven.
Damage was not as extensive as the tornadoes that hit Hamden 1989 and 2018, but significant structural damage occurred in several areas.
Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Gary Merwede had been coordinating and preparing Hamden’s ongoing response, in conjunction with Mayor Leng, since before the storm arrived earlier Thursday afternoon and now throughout the recovery.
Mayor Leng stated, "Our Town was hit very hard today, and there was a lot of damage, but I'm very thankful that we do not believe there were any major injuries. Our residents can count on the fact that our Public Safety and first responder crews will be all-hands-on-deck and working through the night, and then as long as it takes to make our streets safe."
Chief Merwede provided the website with the following official report on the tornado from the National Weather Service:
PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW YORK NY 1046 PM EDT FRI AUG 28 2020
EF1 Tornado Confirmed from Bethany to North Haven, Connecticut
START LOCATION: Bethany in New Haven County END LOCATION: North Haven in New Haven County DATE: 08/27/2020 ESTIMATED TIME: 3:53 p.m. to 4:03 p.m. MAXIMUM EF-SCALE RATING: EF1 ESTIMATED MAX. WIND SPEED: 110 mph MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH: 500 yards PATH LENGTH: 11.1 miles BEGINNING LAT/LON: 41.448, -72.992 ENDING LAT/LON: 41.349, -72.828 FATALITIES: None INJURIES: None
Based on a National Weather Service damage survey done in conjunction with the Connecticut Division of Emergency Management, Homeland Security, and local Connecticut town emergency managements, it has been determined that a strong EF1 tornado, with a maximum wind speed of 110 mph tracked southeast from Bethany to North Haven.
The tornado first touched down in a forested area to the southeast of Judd Hill Road in Bethany. The tornado tracked southeast over primarily forested areas from Amity Road, to Munson Road towards Litchfield Turnpike, creating a path of damage about 75 yards wide, with hardwood tree damage consistent with wind speeds of 80 to 90 mph.
The path of the storm widened to around 300 yards as the tornado tracked southeast towards Lake Bethany. Structural damage, including significant roof damage to several homes, and snapped hardwood trees, indicated wind speeds of around 100 mph in this area.
The tornado path continued southeast for another four miles to near the town center of Hamden, Connecticut, with tree and structural damage indicative of wind speeds of 70 to 80 mph. The intensity picked up significantly as the tornado approached the center of Hamden, as evidence by extensive damage to numerous buildings, including the flat roof of a two-story building at 1 Evergreen Avenue, across from the Hamden Government Center, being torn apart.
Wind speeds are estimated to be around 100 mph based on the damage to these buildings, bent metal fencing around the Government Center, and uprooted and snapped trees.
The tornado reached maximum strength and width from this point on as it continued southeast across the Wilbur Cross Parkway (Rt. 15), Interstate 91, and down to the intersection of Arrowdale and Thompson Street in North Haven.
Tremendous hardwood tree damage and structural damage was indicative of wind speeds of 110 mph and an expanded width of 500 yards. It is at this point that the tornado appears to have dissipated with its destructive straight-line winds fanning out to the coast.
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A tree demolished this Ford Taurus wagon parked in a Bear Path Road driveway, just missing the home of retired Battalion Chief Gil Spencer and hs wife Helen, who now will be looking for another car. Fortunately, there were no injuries on Bear Path Road or, according to the NWS summary, nowhere else along the tornado's route.
Greg Shammett joined the department in July 1969. With the coming of the 42-hour work-week he was assigned to Platoon 3 at Station 2, where he was usually assigned to the ladder truck. Greg was a consciencious firefighter with a promising future.
Liked by all the guys who worked with him, he was blessed with a wonderfully wry sense of humor. He and another firefighter once created a board game for the station called "Firehouse." The tongue-in-cheek object was to gain promotions by doing favors for high ranking department members. "You paint the Marshal's house (two coats), receive five brownie points." You get the picture.
On the evening of Thursday, August 21, 1980, Greg returned home after his shift at Station 5, where he was assigned to Truck 1. It was his second day of the three-day trick. After dinner, Greg ran an errand out to Durham. On Route 17, Greg's car was hit head on by a drunk driver. He was only 33 years old. Firefighter Gregory Shammett left behind his wife, Marie, two children, and many grieving friends on the department.
We are deeply saddened to report the passing on August 17th of retired Hamden Firefighter Ray Ramelli, 74, who served on the department from January 1970 until his retirement on the last day of November 1999.
Ray was an outstanding and well respected firefighter, as was his dad, Hamden Firefighter Alfred Ramelli, who passed away New Year's Day 1972 after being stricken on the job.
Ray was appointed to the department in January 1970 and was an EMT on Rescue 1 on Platoon 1 most of his career. He retired the last day of November 1999. Ray and Tina were frequent attendees at the Local 2687 retirement dinners.
Calling hours at Sisk Brother's Funeral Home, 3105 Whitney Avenue, Hamden are Sunday, August 23, from 2 to 6 p.m. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Monday at 10 a.m. Because the COVID pandemic has severely limited the number of people who can attend, the Funeral Mass will be private.
Please keep Tina, their children, Ray Jr., Roger, and Al, and their families in your thoughts and prayers at this sad time.
Website thanks to fellow Hamden fire retiree Jeff Stoehr for sending this video this morning (Aug. 19th). It contains info on the dangers of storing your 9-volt batteries, and what can easily happen. Check it out.
Joy of victory celebrations undampened by some area fire activity
CLICK on the photo to see the list of WWII veterans who served on the Hamden Fire Department.
August 15, 2020 - Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II, with the unconditional surrender of Japan. Following the surrender of Germany three months earlier, hundreds of thousands of American troops in Europe were poised for the anticipated invasion of the Japan, which was pre-empted by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Within a year after VJ Day, the Hamden Fire Department was changing. Hamden fire personnel, Captain Joe Hromadka, Firefighters Paul Leddy, Mario "Bucky" Serafino, Stuart Keeler and Jim and Emil Strain, all returned home following service in the war. The Department was growing and war veterans were being hired to bolster department numbers. Bill Hines, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was Hamden's first new postwar firefighter, hired on September 20, 1945. Francis "Chalky" Leddy followed on January 26, 1946. Art Smith, Fred Fletcher, George Reutenauer, John Hoffman and Paul Rosadina all joined the department before the end of 1946. By the end of 1950 the Hamden Fire Department would grow to 55 career members.
Whitneyville's 1928 Maxim 750 GPM at Butterworth's Farm in August 1940. (Photo courtesy of G. Donald Steele)
Butterworth's Giant Valley Farm, on Tuttle Avenue about a mile in from Whitney Avenue, has been the scene of three other major fires: February 1955, May 1975, and August 1998. Links to the other three are below.
When the Hamden Fire Department welcomed its four newest firefighter/paramedics on Friday, July 31st, it did so with a much more modest crowd than usual due to what the webmeister has called, "this damned COVID thing."
Only the immediately families or very close friends of the recruits were permitted to attend the swearing-in ceremony in the Hamden Memorial Town Hall Council Chamber.
Social distancing was also observed among the recruits and their families.
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Hamden Town Clerk Vera Morrison administers the oath to Hamden's newest firefighter/paramedics, who were in the 65th Connecticut Fire Academy's recruit class, the longest ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When their recruit class was temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, the students were sent back to their respective departments. Until classes resumed, these four were put directly on the line to boost the department's medical response.
In his remarks to their families, who were the only civilians present, Chief Gary Merwede noted, "During the height of the accelerated community spread of COVID-19, our newest members served this department with distinction, treating the sick and improving the Fire Department's response time by staffing a third Paramedic Rescue."
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Holding his breath, each man pulled his mask down long enough to get a quick shot.
Rob Phalen began working emergency room services in 2004 as a combat medic/EMT in the United States Army Reserve and has been working as a paramedic since 2010. He is actively involved in instruction and training of paramedic students through the Yale Center for EMS. Rob is a graduate of Notre Dame High School and has attended the University of New Haven, Firefighter Phelan will be assigned to Station 4 on Platoon 4.
Matthew Nolan has been married for almost nine years to his wife Tiffany. They have three beautiful daughters, Mackenzie, 10, and Lily and Sophia, both 5.. Matt is currently working towatd a bachelor's degree in Public Safety Administration. He brings to this department his career experience with volunteer organizations and the Guilford Fire Department. Firefighter Nolan will be assigned to Station 4 on Platoon 2.
Jeffrey McGoldrick resides in a neighboring community with his daughter Eva. While in high school, he was involved with many sports including football, swimming, basketball, and track. Active in the Boys Scouts, Jeffrey was among the 4% of scouts to reach Eagle Scout rank. Jeffrey graduated from Villanova University School of Business with a Marketing Degree and MIS Minor. While at Villanova, he participated in many activites, including multiple singing groups and soccer teams.
Jeffrey gained EMT certification and Paramedic License through the YNHH Center for EMS. He worked at Hunter's Ambulance Service while going through his paramedic program, during which Jeff had his "ride time" with the Hamden Fire Department. It was then that Jeff found his passion for a career as a firefighter/paramedic. Firefighter McGoldrick will be assigned to Station 2 on Platoon 4.
Christopher Dosin is from a small town just outside New York City, Hastings-on-Hudson. He joined his town's Junior Firefighter Explorer Post in 2012 when he was just 14 years old. Immediately after high school, Christopher joined the Hastings-on-Hudson Volunteer Fire Department.
Christopher attended the University of New Haven and graduated earlier this year, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Paramedicine. During his time at UNH, he joined organizations like the EMS Club, which gave him the drive and skills to pursue a career in the fire service. He credits his volunteer time and education to giving him this opportunity with the Hamden Fire Department. Firefighter Dosin will be assigned to Station 4 on Platoon 1.
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These special folks did the badge pinning honors: Ff. Phalen's friend Katherine; Matthew Nolan's wife, Tiffany and daughter; Jeffrey McGoldrick's mom, Rowena; and Christopher Dosin's dad, Dave.
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All sworn-in with badges pinned on, Hamden's four newest recruits are pictured here with Chief Gary Merwede (L) and Asst. Chief Charles Lubowicki.
The New Haven Evening Register, Monday, August 1, 1960
We've Come a Long Way, Baby!
Check out Chief Raymond C. Spencer's monthly activity report from 60 years ago. The number of so-called "oxygen calls" for the entire month of July 1960 could easily be the same as a typical day sixty years later.
Before Hamden got its first certified Emergency Medical Technicians in 1971, Hamden firefighters' highest level of first aid training was the advanced Red Cross first aid course. The only life-saving equipment, such as it was, employed by the department were the E&J Resuscitator and a bottle of O2. Rescue 2 (below) was nothing more than a souped-up panel truck.