New Video Unearthed of 1989 Tornado Outbreak


The 1989 tornado outbreak was the most significant in the state during the 20th century. I recently was able to unearth some new video from the day after the storm. I also found a package from Cornwall showing the damage at Mohawk Mountain and the Cathedral Pines (fast forward to about 13:30)! I had feared this video was lost forever but I found it stashed in our archives this past weekend!

Several years ago I posted this video from our 11 p.m. newscast the night of the storm and also raw video of the damage in Bantam that Governor O’Neil toured on July 11, 1989.



How does the 1989 Cornwall to Hamden tornado stack up next to other big Connecticut tornado days? The 1979 Windsor Locks tornado was more intense but was relatively short lived only tracking through 2 towns prior to lifting. The 1878 Wallingford tornado likely rivaled the 1989 outbreak in terms of duration, length, and intensity.

I’ve written  about the infamous 1989 tornado outbreak previously here and here – though a more thorough discussion is warranted and will be done eventually.

Looking at some of the video I’ve uploaded and some other video clips and pictures I’ve seen I’m becoming more and more confident that the tornado was not F-4 intensity in Hamden. Here’s a BIG caveat: I’m basing the following statements on video being viewed 23 years after the fact! These are just observations and it is certainly possible I’m missing damage indicators that were available on storm surveys at the time.

Based on video there are some indications of F-3 damage (similar to what I saw in Monson and Brimfield, MA) most of the damage appears to have been F-1 and F-2. For example in Monson and Brimfield there were several cases of homes destroyed, swept off their foundations, and nearly unrecognizable. Most of the damage in Hamden featured roofs being blown off, second stories of homes destroyed, but in general the frames of homes remaining in tact.

The worst damage I can find is from this YouTube video uploaded by the Hamden Fire Department. At approximately 2:30 in you can see the damage at the corner of Augur and Newhall streets across from the Whitneyville Condominiums.


It’s not clear to me if that pile of debris is from the second floor of the white house on the right or if it’s a separate house that was leveled. While severe, I just don’t see F-4 damage indicators.

Furthermore, there are indications from Litchfield County that the tornado that tracked from Cornwall to Bantam may have been stronger than F-2. While we’ll never know the storm’s true intensity from what we know now about damage indicators today and the approximately half hour of damage video from July 1989 my best estimate is F-1/F-2 damage in Cornwall, F-2/F-3 damage in Bantam/Litchfield, and F-3 damage in Hamden.

Regardless of exactly how strong the tornado was the long track and duration of the tornadoes that touched down that day in 1989 is exceptionally impressive.

11 thoughts on “New Video Unearthed of 1989 Tornado Outbreak”

  1. Ryan, I was not in the path of the 1989 tornado (approx. 15 miles to the WSW) but I remember so many odd things about that afternoon weatherwise, which hinted to me that something odd or unusual was happening or about to happen in CT. How can we discuss this? email or via this blog ? I’ve been into weather since the late 60s.

      1. As I recall, the weather was strange on that Monday, July 10, 1989. It seems that the Dew Point was around 80 degrees. The sky had a greenish-gray appearance all day. It felt that the barometric pressure was off kilter too. I had an at home vacation day on that date. My 2 cats were behaving strangely, too. I was living in Wallingford at that time. Thank you.

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