The Windsor Locks tornado and the Cornwall to Hamden tornadoes of the 70s and 80s are well documented. The 1878 Wallingford tornado (possibly the strongest to hit the state in recorded history) is the center of a bit of 19th century weather lore. In fact it’s just as easy to find damage pictures from the 1878 tornado damage online as it is to find 1989 damage pictures from Hamden!
But lost in the shuffle is the 1962 Waterbury tornado. Television stations were in their infancy and to my knowledge the film has been lost (WVIT did save an hour of film – now on DVD and backed up by me about a million times the 1955 flood video).
The 1962 tornado wasn’t the strongest (1878, 1989, and 1979 are all in that category) or the most damaging (1979 wins by a landslide) but for people around Waterbury of a certain age May 24, 1962 is a day they’ll never forget.
The 1962 tornado was a significant and long-track tornado that is unusual but not unheard of for the state. Here is how the National Weather Service described the storm.
The tornado was on the ground for 12 miles from Middlebury to Southington and was likely an F3 based on the above descriptions and video.
On Tuesday morning I spoke to an elementary school class in Prospect and was talking to a teacher who grew up in Waterbury and remembers seeing the storm. I couldn’t remember if it was in 1962 or 1964 (a rare historical weather lapse for me) so took out the iPhone and did a Google search. I couldn’t believe what popped up!
There is some impressive damage in that video – no doubt a significant tornado. One of the reasons this storm may have been lost in the historical shuffle is that it occurred less than 7 years after the 1955 floods. Many people living in Waterbury at the time recount that August night on the Naugatuck River like it was yesterday. For many the great flood following the remnants of Connie and Diane may have overshadowed what was most likely the 3rd most violent tornado of the 20th century in Connecticut.
If you have any memories, pictures, or stories from 1962 please share them here!