City officials said there has been no confirmation that the powerful storm that caused extensive damage to trees and houses early this morning was a tornado. Instead, the damage looks to have been caused by a microburst, or a column of rapidly sinking wind that produces powerful straight-line winds.
That microburst caused extensive damage to the Arlington and Edgewood sections of the city and members of the Public Works Department have been working since 3 a.m., said Robin Muksian-Schutt, the city’s director of administration.
“In both locations, there was a very defined area of damage,” Muksian-Schutt said. “If you looked at some damage and the went a couple of blocks in either direction, you wouldn’t know anything happened.”
This was more than a regular wind, Muksian-Schutt said.
“Many of the trees that came down were very healthy trees, trees lifted by their roots,” she said.
The mayor has been out taking stock of the damage that included blown-out skylights, damaged roofs and homes with the vinyl siding torn off.
Numerous telephone poles were snapped in half, sending live wires onto the streets and private property. Many roads remain closed or impassable as city crews and an outside tree removal contractor wait for the OK from National Grid before moving in to clear debris.
“One of the problems we have is the live wires. If they’re down, we must stay off them,” Muksian-Schutt said. “National Grid has to assess those live wires and they’re really busy dealing with damage through different areas of the state.”
The city is working with the state Emergency Management Agency to see what potential there is for federal reimbursement for the city’s damage removal costs.
Residents are advised to steer clear of any downed wires and to call National Grid to report them. People should also expect temporary power outages as the electric company turns off transformers to reconnect downed wires.
There were no reports of injuries from the storm. The Fire Department worked closely with National Grid and area elderly housing complexes to make sure air conditioners would keep running for the higher-risk population. Crews were out removing trees and debris in 90 degree heat today.
City officials are now bracing themselves for the possibility of more severe weather today and tonight.
The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency posted a weather advisory for the state beginning this afternoon at 3 p.m. and extending into the evening.
Another night of high winds, thunderstorms, and potentially heavy rain are expected, according to the National Weather Service.
Following the expected storms, Friday's forecast is for mostly sunny skies with high temperatures in the upper 70s.