Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed an executive order Tuesday allowing the state to help towns clean up debris left behind by tornadoes and severe weather on Monday.
The Declaration of Civil Preparedness will permit the state to assist in removing wreckage on public and private land in East Windsor, Greenwich, Stamford, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.
“While yesterday’s tornadoes in Hartford County and Fairfield County caused property damage, we are most of all grateful that no lives were lost during these flash storms. This declaration will help the residents in the impacted towns to expedite debris removal,” Malloy said in a statement.
Earlier Tuesday, Malloy and Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky toured Windsor’s O.J. Thrall farm where a tornado flattened or stripped 20 acres of shade tobacco. The funnel cloud ripped irrigation pipelines from their supports, left posts broken at ground level, and tossed for miles the nets used to shade the tobacco.
None of the farm’s workers were injured during storm. They were sent home early when the weather became dangerous. But Reviczky said the owner of the farm has reported losing as much as 50 acres of shade and around 20 acres of his crop. He said he was amazed by the damage he saw at the farm.
“I’ve lived in Connecticut my whole life, this type of devastation — just to see these posts that are ripped up out of the ground and snapped off, the twisted mess that you see in terms of the irrigation system, and then to see the shade material . . . wrapped around trees and literally miles from here,” he said.
In some cases the tornado crushed the tobacco leaves to the ground. In other areas it stripped the leaves from the plant entirely. Reviczky said in some areas there are patches of the farm with “tobacco stalks, no leaves.”
“The tornado ripped all the leaves off the plants. You can literally see where there’s touchdown and how the tornado skipped all along this farm,” he said.
Malloy said it was too early to put a monetary estimate on the damage. He said about 10 percent of the farm’s acres were damaged but the total losses will depend on how fast the farm can recover.
The governor said that shade tobacco, which is used as the wrapping for cigars, is Connecticut’s most valuable crop per acre. The plant depends upon the netting that the tornado scattered to filter out the sunlight and retain humidity.
After touring the grounds, Malloy said that farms impacted by the tornado could apply for a grant program his administration launched in June, which is designed to support farms that have been damaged by severe weather this year. The state is offering a total of $5 million under the grants. Applications for assistance must be received by July 15.
“This is important to me. It’s an important industry, financially it has a big impact, it’s part of our heritage and who we are as yankees,” he said.
Malloy said a lot of farms in Connecticut are at a disadvantage in terms insurance coverage. He said national policy has focused on protecting industrial “mega farms,” instead of local farms which are typically smaller but grow several different kinds of crops.
“The rules are not written to compensate them when they lose a particular crop as opposed to all of their acreage or that sort of thing. So we figured we had to do something together to address local conditions in Connecticut and the fact that a lot of the losses . . . would not qualify for crop loss coverage,” he said.
Asked about the recent prevalence of severe weather in the region, Malloy said other parts of the country also have been impacted.
“I think there are ebbs and flows and patterns in weather conditions and we’re in the bad portion of one of those. If it would end, it would be okay with me,” he said.