Tree Limb Impales Ambulance, Narrowly Missing Paramedic


 
 

William Kaempffer | | Monday, October 15, 2007


NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The rain was a godsend. The wind? Not so much.

Tree limbs were falling Friday all over the New Haven, Conn., region on cars, streets, electrical wires and fences, and even impaling an ambulance, narrowly missing a very lucky American Medical Response paramedic.

United Illuminating Co. reported 4,200 storm-related outages Friday in Greater New Haven and Fairfield County. That s on top of 5,000 homes that lost power when a strong storm plowed through Bridgeport, Trumbull and the Naugatuck Valley Thursday night. We ve had a lot of trees knocked into (electrical) lines, causing them to fall, said UI spokesman Al Carbone. Crews have been out since late last night, working through the morning and working through the evening. He said he expected another rush of calls when people come home from work and discover they re without electricity.

We ve got a pretty good handle on it.

In most cases, power was restored in anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, although some took longer.

One outage knocked out 3,387 customers along the Dixwell Avenue corridor of New Haven and Hamden.

Another felled tree in Milford left 534 customers in the dark near Woodmont Road and Old Gate Lane.

On the Milford-Orange line, another tree took down wires and cut power to 40 customers.

No serious injuries were reported in New Haven, not even the AMR driver who was nearly skewered as he drove down Dixwell Avenue in Newhallville. The jagged end of the broken tree limb, about 4 inches in diameter, missed him by inches.

Paramedic Jason Beloin caught a glimpse of the branch moments before it smashed through his windshield, and threw his right arm up to shield his face.

I just heard an explosion and when I dropped my arm the branch was next to my head, he said.

EMT Jeff Foster was in the back with a patient and heard the same thing.

I turned around and said, Are you OK? he said. I looked up and saw the tree.

Once they were safely outside, there was only one thing to do. I gave him a hug, said Foster.

Christy Haas of New Haven s Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees devoted most of her day to fielding calls for the latter.

It was a fabulous day until about 11:30 (a.m.) and the wind started to come in and the limbs started to come down on fences and cars and streets.

She had four crews out all day working to cut up and remove the fallen branches but saw a silver lining.

With the recent dry spell, even with the rainfall Thursday and Friday, the ground was well below saturation point. Had the ground been waterlogged, the city likely would have been dealing with uprooted trees instead of snapped branches.

It could be a whole lot worse, Haas said.

On the other hand, if this storm had come through a month from now, after the leaves had fallen, the damage probably would have been significantly less.

Leaves served as thousands of little sails that increased wind resistance and stress on branches, Haas said.

On Friday, according to WTNHTV meteorologist Gil Simmons, Hamden had a wind gust of 42 mph; New Haven, Woodbridge, Ansonia, and Milford all recorded gusts in the mid-30s.

For context, tropical storms have minimal winds of 39 mph. That s sustained winds, Simmons noted, not gusts, but that still translates into some blustery conditions here.

While much of Greater New Haven largely escaped the power outages caused by high winds and stormy conditions Thursday night, by Friday morning branches were tearing down wires and setting equipment on fire in Milford.

At 10:13 a.m., branches tore down power cables on Woodmont Road, blacking out hundreds for about 90 minutes, until power was restored at 11:52 a.m.

Up until then, Bridgeport, Trumbull and Fairfield were the hardest hit by storms that began Thursday, Carbone said.

Two people were stuck in an elevator in an office building in the center of Hamden when the power went out, Deputy Fire Chief Clark Hurlburt said.

We ve had a lot of wires and tree limbs down, Hurlburt said.

Fire Lt. Jason Blyth said the man and woman who were stuck in the elevator between the second and third floors were employed by the company that owns the building at 2820 Old Dixwell Ave., the Eye Center. Though they were trapped for about 30 minutes, they were pretty calm. We were able to get the doors opened using the elevator keys, Blyth said.

The Hamden police station next door was operating on emergency generators after the power went on and off several times, Capt. Ronald Smith said.

Trees and wires are down. We ve been very busy today, he said.

There were no injuries.

Blyth said a tree fell on Treadwell Street and blocked the road and a utility pole snapped in half at Still Hill Road and West Todd Street, crossing the road and shutting it down.

Aside from all the problems because of the wind, the precipitation was good, Simmons said.

We still need about 5 or 6 inches of rain to get back to optimal levels, Simmons said. There s been next to no precipitation since midsummer, he said, as a fair weather system up and down the Eastern Seaboard served as a roadblock of sorts, deflecting storms coming from the Midwest.

The wind will continue through today, but the strongest has passed, he added. Look forward to a fair weekend with chilly nights and a few clouds. The next rain should be in the middle of the week.


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