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Experts have made their ruling. The violent wind gusts that ripped through Buffalo's West Side late Saturday morning came from a "microburst" - straight-line winds - not a tornado.
But the effects were just as devastating as a tornado to Connecticut Street residents, who watched - some in terror - as the heavy winds tore the roof off one building, damaged three others and caused more than $250,000 damage.
Debris was scattered across the street for blocks and forced about half a dozen residents from their apartments.
"It sounded like a freight train going through," said Kevin Skovenski, who was enjoying his Saturday morning coffee.
He said he saw an intense wind, which he described as a tornado, whip by on the opposite, northwest side of the street, damaging buildings, sending bricks flying and even lifting one tree out of the ground and dumping it down the street.
Connecticut Street may have taken the brunt of the storm, but other neighborhoods also got socked. Winds downed trees and wires in Clarence and Marilla, on Summer Street and Erie Street in Buffalo, and they toppled a tree onto a house in Kenmore.
The worst gusts, including those that tore through Connecticut Street, were estimated in the 60 to 65 mph range, according to Judy Levan, acting meteorologist in charge of the local National Weather Service.
"Everything that we've looked at so far is straight-line winds," Levan said. "So there have been no confirmed tornadoes."
Tornadoes are defined by their twisting and rotating motion that leaves debris strewn in different directions.
Instead, this was a straight-line microburst, as explained by Levan.
"It's a cool pool of air that drops out of the base of a thunderstorm, hits the ground and then pushes out, pushing everything in one direction," she said. "It's like a wall of wind."
Firefighters responded to the building collapses a few minutes before 10 a.m. at 406-414 Connecticut St., between 14th and 15th streets. Initial reports from emergency workers at the scene indicated that all the people apparently had fled from the most seriously damaged building.
City officials told reporters that the bricks, roof pieces and other debris blew some 200 to 300 feet away from the partially collapsed buildings.
"We probably have a debris field stretching from 14th to 17th streets," one emergency worker said.
Displaced residents sounded both thankful and somewhat frustrated.
"I'm upset, but I'm happy no one got hurt," said Sherry Turner, a resident of 406 Connecticut St., which lost its roof during the less-than-a-minute weather phenomenon.
The Red Cross put up Turner and several other residents in motels Saturday afternoon. They were briefly allowed back inside their homes to grab necessities, because many took nothing with them when they left.
The quick evacuation was frustrating for Nicole Sampman, who lives at 401-403 Connecticut. She was taken by surprise because she did not feel any shaking or damage during the storm.
"Now we can't even go back into our building until they tell us to," she said, as she stood outside without a raincoat, holding her 1-year-old son.
Buffalo Fire Division Chief John Mogavero said he was most concerned about 401-403 Connecticut, on the southeast side of the street, because it hadn't collapsed yet. The bricks were bowed out and some walls were cracked, meaning a collapse could be imminent.
Mogavero said he has never seen anything like Saturday's weather damage. Roof debris was flung down Connecticut as far as 17th Street, and bricks, tree branches and other materials were scattered along the sidewalks, road and neighbors' lawns. About 45 firefighters were dispatched, he said, along with Buffalo police, building inspectors, city engineers and the National Weather Service.
The entire episode lasted only about 30 seconds, said Rob Thompson, Turner's roommate. The wind picked up and began blowing things off the walls, so he and Turner jumped up to close the windows. By the time they were done, the wind and noise had stopped.
"I didn't know if it was wind or bricks falling," he said.
Apparently it was both.
Buffalo fire officials listed the estimated total damage of $252,000 to three houses on both sides of Connecticut Street and a fourth house on nearby 15th Street. The heaviest damage was reported at 406 Connecticut, where the roof was ripped off, leaving an estimated $125,000 in damage. The Mineo & Sapio Italian Sausage building, at 410 Connecticut, absorbed $75,000 in roof, cornice and brick damage.
Authorities earlier fielded residents' reports of possible tornadoes in at least two other communities, Marilla and Clarence, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Pukajlo. Erie County sheriff's deputies responded to a possible tornado on Two Rod Road, near Parker Road, Marilla, shortly after 8:30 a.m.
"I just talked to a man in the intersection, and he said it was a tornado," one person said over the sheriff's police radio.
Deputies found evidence of trees downed at about four different homes on Two Rod Road. But those initial reports included no injuries or structural damage to any homes.
Those reports came after the region got pelted with a soaking rain early Saturday.
Even before that soaking, the area already had received more rain in the first week of September than in all of August.
The National Weather Service reported 1.17 inches of rain at its Cheektowaga office from shortly after midnight to 5 p.m. Saturday. That brought the updated September total to 2.5 inches - more than double the August total of 1.24 inches.
"We've had more rain this week than we've had for quite a long time," Pukajlo said.
Sunday is expected to be much drier, with mostly sunny conditions and highs only in the upper 60s.
"After we get through today, it looks like it's going to be pretty much a dry week," Pukajlo said Saturday.

email: kronayne@buffnews.com and gwarner@buffnews.com