An afternoon thunderstorm spread havoc across the region on Monday, cutting power to thousands of customers, rendering roads impassable and causing a roof collapse at a Danbury auto dealership.

Bethel, Danbury and New Milford were particularly hard hit by the storm, which dumped some 2.79 inches of rain over a period of a few hours.

By nightfall, much of the water had receded, but more than 2,600 Northeast Utilities customers in Bethel were still in the dark.

No one was injured when the showroom roof at Action Motors on Newtown Road gave way about 3:15 p.m., pouring water into the building and forcing employees to take refuge under an awning outside the entrance.


In addition to the power outage in Bethel, heavy rains damaged the newly renovated pubic library that re-opened last week and caused a sewage overflow at the police station on Plumtrees Road.


In New Milford, trees and downed wires left power cut to nearly 3,000 customers, but utility crews restored it to most of them by 9 p.m.

Though New Milford's downtown escaped virtually unscathed, the powerful storm prompted a mother and daughter walking on the green to race inside into a nearby store for safety when the thunder roar and lightning rocked the ground beneath them.

Especially hard hit were neighborhoods along the northern portion of Route 202, where downed trees and power lines were a common sight.

Residents with chainsaws joined forces to cut limbs and branches that were scattered across their yards and driveways.

On Old Park Lane, a large tree toppled almost at the base, bringing down a power line and spreading debris across an access road leading to several homes. At the
Candlewood Valley Health Center , a tree fell on a car in the parking lot.

Fire crews responded to reports of possible lightning strikes, including one thought to have sparked a fire at a Waramaug Lane house.

In Bethel, callers to the library heard this message: "As of 4 p.m. the library is closed due to a building emergency."

In addition to answering calls from residents in low-lying areas that were flooded, Bethel police had to deal with a problem in their own home. "The police department is flooded with raw sewage coming through the floor drains," said Capt. Robert Cedergren.

The water reached a depth of three to four inches, Cedergren said. "We were pumping out," he said.


Also in Bethel, Charles Noe described his back yard on Greenwood Avenue as "like Lake Erie."

At one point, said Noe, the water was about 8 feet deep, and a wooden footbridge ripped from its mounting on an adjacent brook was floating in his back yard.

In addition to a runaway bridge, Noe said a man was kayaking in the brook that had turned into a lake. But that's not a very good idea, said Noe, because the "sewage pipe is underneath and you can smell the sewage."

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Staff writers Nanci G. Hutson and Eugene Driscoll contributed to this report.