WBUR

Deaths, Extensive Damage After Tornadoes Hit Mass.

BOSTON — Tornadoes roared through western and central Massachusetts on Wednesday, causing damage in at least 18 communities, ripping off roofs, uprooting trees, scattering debris and leaving at least four dead (Update: One death may not be storm-related).

Speaking late Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick said two fatalities were reported in Westfield, while one died in West Springfield and one in the town of Brimfield. Patrick had no details about those killed and said the death total was preliminary.

Residents in tornado-damaged parts of the state were urged to stay off roads Thursday, and schools were closed and non-essential state workers had the day off as officials assess damage and begin the daunting task of cleaning up.

The tornadoes caused an unknown number of injuries and extensive damage throughout the affected communities. As a result, the governor declared a state of emergency Wednesday evening and activated up to 1,000 National Guard troops.

Springfield, Monson and Brimfield were among the communities hit hardest.

Monson Emergency Management Director Kathleen Conley Norbut says more than 40 homes have been severely damaged and the emergency operations center has lost its roof. She says they are asking for mobile communication centers from the state, and trying to rely on social media sites such as Facebook to communicate with residents.

Reporting on the damage in Brimfield, WBUR’s David Boeri described the catastrophic scene.

“Two trucks upside down here, the skins completely torn off by the wind, there have been a number of barns completely devastated,” he said.

Looking to the west from where he was standing at a quarter-mile-long ridge, Boeri said, “Every pine tree has been snapped off, some at the base, some higher up.”

Across the street, on Hollow Road, of the four houses there, “two of them [are] gone altogether, another one devastated, the third it’s not clear. As far as we know, everyone has been accounted for.”

Routes 19 and 20 in Brimfield were closed during the Thursday morning commute as search and cleanup operations continued. Both are major commuter routes for Worcester and Springfield.

Police say many secondary roads in central and western Massachusetts are also impassible.

The violent storm system descended on the Springfield area at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. There were then reports of other apparent tornado touchdowns in other parts of the state in the evening.

Thomas Walsh, mayoral spokesman in Springfield, the state’s third largest city, told The Associated Press he was looking out his City Hall window at around 4:30 p.m. when he saw a “massive cloud of debris” floating in a circle.

Local television footage shows a debris-filled funnel roaring through the downtown area.

WFCR-FM reporter Anne Mostue saw the apparent tornado from her office in Springfield.

“I ran out of the studio and looked into the street facing downtown Springfield and saw this enormous black cloud heading in a downward direction and a tremendous amount of debris and trash in the air swirling around,” Mostue said.

Heavy damage was reported in the city’s South End section.

“There are entire buildings that are collapsed, caved in, and then there’s several first or top floors that have been ripped off, and roofs that have been ripped off,” Mostue added later from the South End. “Lots of trees down, lots of debris and trash in the streets. It’s quite a scene.”

Greater Boston, meanwhile, experienced heavy thunderstorms and high winds as the system moved east through the metropolitan area.

Meteorologist Marc Rosenthal said the reason for the violent weather is a powerful jet stream, plus a contrast between two big air masses — one hot and the other cold.

Compiled by Benjamin Swasey, with additional reporting from The Associated Press

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  • Squidballs6919

    this is crazy deff 2012 on the way if boston is getting tornados 

    • Rahul3013

      Total agree with yOu

  • Dorkstarsz

    lol 2012, is gunna be as fake as the guy who said few days ago the world wus gunna end….

  • Rev. Daniel Blair

    God
    Bless these folks who must undergo these tragedies. Friends, every Christians
    must go thru the Great Tribulation before Jesus Christ returns. And when He
    does we know that it will not be a secret rapture because “every eye shall see.”
    (Rev. 1:7) “For as lightning comes from the east is visible even in the west,
    so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Mat. 24:27) I am dedicated to
    helping Christians learn how to stand firm and not be easily shaken by the
    distress coming upon the world in the last days. No matter how bad it gets
    remember that God loves you and He hears your prayers. Posted by Rev. Daniel W.
    Blair

    • Rev. Iorek Byrnison

       Blair, you ghoul, all you do is look for natural events where humans get harmed and post one of your 3 canned blurbs promoting your fantasies about something called “god”. 
      “If Jesus were alive and saw what has been done in his name, he would never stop throwing up.”  — Kurt Vonnegut

  • VY is our neighbor

    Vermont Yankee is very close by.  Why is Vt not included in the mapping?  If the tornado had hit the stored nuclear waste, we would have a disaster at least 10 times the size of Fukushima.

    We need to close and securely store the waste now.  We need to know why the weather service draws an exclusion zone along the state line.  Hinsdale NH is across the CT River and is included in the tornado watch/warning.  How is it safer just across the water?

    Think, people, think…  and call somebody.

  • Renee C.

    AFTER WEDNESDAY’S TORNADIC ACTIVITY IN SPRINGFIELD AND BOSTON, MA. ; ( A SECTION OF THE USA THAT DON’T  GET TORNADOS IF AT ALL) YOU REALLY START WONDERING IF NATURAL DISASTERS OF ANY FORM WILL WIPE OUT THE HUMAN  LIFE!!!!!  I HOPE SPRINGFIELD AND BOSTON (AS WELL AS JOPLIN AND OTHER TORNADO STRUCK AREAS) RECOVER WITH GOD’S SPEED AND LOVE!!!!!

  • Richarddumughn

    Thinking of all those affected.God bless

  • Rowlandruthann

    FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND>>> BE WATCHFUL BECAUSE HE COMES WITH CLOUDS>>>>>
    ONE DAY TO GOD IS NOT THE SAME AS ONE DAY TO US……….FOR A DOGS DAYS ARE NOT AS OURS*** AN ANTS DAYS ARE NOT AS A FROG AND SO ON>>>>>

  • http://twitter.com/iambrandsuz Suz Carter

    When I see a tornado, I run into the basement, not into the street. 

  • Anonymous

    We don’t see many of these ’round here… This was a hell of a surprise!
    My deepest sympathy to all of those affected by this, my east coast friends.
    So many good people to comment with care, Thank you!! 
    To many idiot comments by the others, no thanks..
    Like those who tell you it’s gods fault, or yours.
    This didn’t happen b’cause mother nature is a bitch, it’s not a sign of 2012 (c’mon now, grow up)
    Hopefully we learn and remember that so many things are sacred to us as *Americans*
    Bless you!

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