Cathedral Pines, Cornwall, CT   Ernie Ostuno
  Aug 08, 2004 20:07 PDT 

Cathedral Pines in Cornwall, CT was a 40 acre stand of primarily white
pine and some hemlock believed to have originated from abandoned farm or
pasture land in colonial times. In 1989 a tornado blew down all but
about 5-10 acres of the stand. I visited this area in June 2001 and
August 2002. I was surprised to find the intact stand of old growth
white pine and hemlock at the southern end of the original old growth
area along a small ridge and valley (I had expected the topography to be
flat and there to be no old trees left standing). 

The white pines were
generally 2 to 3.5 feet dbh and probably in the 120-140 foot tall range.
The largest example of white pine I saw as far as trunk diameter was in
a stream valley east of the ridgetop that was close to 4 foot dbh. About
a dozen pines survived in the blowdown area, although most of them have
limbs missing. There is a rather sharp edge to the wind damage, which is
typical of tornadoes. I did notice evidence of the hemlock wooly adelgid
on some hemlock saplings here. A few scattered old growth hardwoods can
be found here, including red maple and ash.


Cathedral Pines, Cornwall, CT. View looking east at the hillside, showing the area that was hit by the 1989 tornado. Note the standing snags, and a few live pines along with the regrowth and the dense area of old growth at the top of the hill. Photo taken in June 2001.
cathedralpines001.jpg (78234 bytes) View from the edge of the old growth, showing white pine and hemlock. Note the opening in the background along with some fallen trees and new growth. Photo taken June 2001. 
FROM NEWSPAPER REPORTS (Yes, the liberal media):

On July 10, 1989, an area of thunderstorms first appeared in the Berkshires of western Mass., and pushed eastward through Massachusetts during midday. Then during mid-afternoon, another area of squalls developed in the Berkshires. It rolled southeastward and spun off a series of tornadoes that carved a narrow path of destruction from Cornwall's Cathedral Pines (one of the grandest stands of white pine and hemlock east of the Mississippi River) to New Haven's shore. Along the path, which seemed to follow close to Route 63, the sky darkened to midnight proportions and the sounds of a roaring freight train filled the air.

All but a few trees were toppled, the trunks of hundreds of 150-foot-tall pines blown over in a tangle of bark, boughs and broken wood. It took 10 minutes to destroy a 200-year-old forest.

The strongest tornado in the cluster touched down in Hamden and New Haven. The intensity could match anything the Midwest might be able to deliver. Estimated winds were in the 200 mph category. The only fatality I know of was a Girl Scout at a state park about halfway between Cornwall and New Haven, hit by a tree or limb.