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September 8, 2012

Wicked storm explodes over southern Westport

WESTPORT — Damage still showed Friday from a microburst that exploded over the southern end of Westport Thursday afternoon.

A horizontal sheet of wind and rain laid 60-foot-tall trees flat and ripped apart roofs.

Camp Dudley, on the shores of Lake Champlain, was right in its path.

The camp’s Business Manager Fred Guffey said three of Dudley’s cabins were significantly damaged, more than 40 trees were either uprooted or shorn in half, and sports and camp gear was strewn across the property.

Guffey was traveling south on Route 9/22 toward Dudley Road when he saw the storm glowering overhead.

“There was severe lightning,” he said. “A gentleman was riding with me, and I jokingly said, ‘It almost looks like a funnel cloud.’ The storm cloud was black, and it had like a little hook on the end — but it was not touching the ground. It was kind of hanging right over the shoreline of the lake.”

As they approached Dudley Road, a side road that curves along a ridge against the lake shoreline, Guffey said something that looked like a snow squall appeared.

“It was this big, brown combination of rain and wind, like a squall, stretching up to the sky and down to the ground, that moved about 300 yards in front of us. By the time we got to camp, it was all over with.”

Except for cleanup and damage assessment.

Guffey expects the storm caused between $8,000 and $10,000 in damage during the few minutes it took to blast out over Lake Champlain.

He said quarter-sized hail fell with the rain.

“I’m not an expert; I’ve asked could this be an F-1 tornado?”

ROOFS TORN APART

A couple of downed trees blocked the road, he said. And others “were all laid down in like a path. We stopped counting after 40 trees. The storm ran in a swath that goes to the lake, moving in a southeasterly direction, across the soccer fields then down toward the North Point area. It cut all the trees in its wake. Then there wasn’t any damage for several feet, then more trees damaged at North Point. You can see a marked swath where the storm passed through.”

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