A warm and humid May afternoon in 2018 with temperatures rising close to 90 degrees in parts of Connecticut set the stage for one of the worst severe weather outbreaks in the area’s recent history.

Shortly after 4:00PM, the western sky began to grow dark. Around 4:30PM, a supercell thunderstorm associated with a larger line of severe weather known as an MCS (Mesoscale Convective System) tracked from the Hudson Valley through Putnam County and began to tear into central New Fairfield. The noise was described by some residents as a roar. Others noted the classic “freight train” sound.

Radar Image – Shared courtesy of Jason Chiappa

With winds at the core of the system 100+mph and a widespread swath of winds 75+mph stretching for miles, the storm continued to move east into New Milford, Brookfield, Stony Hill, Newtown, and eventually New Haven County. During this time there were 2 confirmed tornadoes. The first touched down in Southbury and moved southeast into Oxford. The second tornado tracked from Beacon falls to Hamden. All of these areas took a substantial hit and damage is still clearly noted now 6 years later. I have a link to a detailed interactive map at the bottom of the article of the hardest hit areas if you want to zoom into your house or neighborhood.

5-15-18 Local TOR+WIND Events
Damage Analysis and Contours – Shared courtesy of Jason Chiappa

The scope of the destruction made surveying the storm difficult. While never confirmed by the NWS, I am confident there were other spin up tornadoes along the path, especially in Brookfield and around Candlewood Lake. Officially, the storm was deemed a macroburst, which is essentially a large downdraft resulting in widespread straight line winds. Winds were officially estimated as high as 110mph across New Fairfield, Brookfield and Newtown as well as in the tornado areas in New Haven County.

My uncle lived on Allen Road in Brookfield, on a hill just East of Candlewood Lake. The damage in that area from Candlewood Shores to his house was some of the worst I have ever personally seen. Almost all trees were uprooted or snapped and several had fallen onto houses.

The storm unfortunately also proved fatal in Connecticut. Two people were killed and a third badly injured as the storm moved into New Fairfield and Danbury. Despite being well forecast, many were caught off guard by the severity of the storm. One of the legacies of this event is it helped change the way the NWS communicates warnings, and you will now receive an EAS alert on your phone if there is an PDS (Particularly Dangerous) severe storms. In the past that technology had only been used for tornados and flash floods.

The May 2018 Macroburst and Tornado Outbreak serves as a reminder of just how destructive severe weather can be in our area. While we do not necessarily associate CT as a severe weather corridor, the potential for impactful severe storms and tornadoes is certainly ever-present. It is also a good reminder that straight line winds can do a TON of damage, even more than tornadoes. If the wind is blowing 100 miles an hour in a straight line or in a circle it doesn’t matter, it still does the same amount of damage. For perspective, Eversource replaced more poles in CT after the 2018 event than it did after Hurricane Sandy.

On a final note, this event really did change the course of my life as a weather forecaster. It became my mission to ensure there would be better public awareness of such a high impact forecast if it ever were to happen again. While the storms were well predicted that day, I lacked the audience and the platform at the time to really spread the information effectively. It really bothered me that so many people were impacted and seemingly did not know this wasn’t “just another day with thunderstorms.” It’s a huge reason why I don’t “hype” weather events and attempt to stay conservative unless I really think it’s going to be bad. Hopefully it never happens again, but if it does, I think we are in a better place with the forecasting.

Thanks for reading!

P.S Thank you to those that have shared pictures and stories over the years. All the photos included were shared from the public. Also huge shout out to meteorologist Jason Chiappa for letting me use his radar image and contours to make the map.

May 15th Storm Damage Path Google Maps Link: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit…

May 15, 2024

6 YEARS LATER: Anniversary of the May 15th 2018 Severe Outbreak

A warm and humid May afternoon in 2018 with temperatures rising close to 90 degrees in parts of Connecticut set the stage for one of the […]
May 3, 2024

Temperature Forecasts and Wind Direction in the Spring

Large temperature gradient between NJ and CT
February 16, 2024

VIDEO: Forecast Retrospective: Breaking Down the Challenging Forecast that was Our Last Snowstorm of 2-13-24

January 31, 2024

Ocean Effect Snow in Connecticut??

Any flurries that occurred last night or this morning are essentially Long Island Sound or Atlantic Ocean effect as we have a SE wind off the […]