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The National Weather Service had just issued a tornado warning for Northampton and Amherst when a black, gray cloud the size of a small mountain slowly descended over downtown Springfield.
It was about 4:30 p.m. and the rush hour commute had begun.
“It looked like a funnel forming,” said Brian Cox, an Easthampton resident who was driving near Springfield’s Basketball Hall of Fame. “I saw a bunch of branches and tree limbs in the sky and it looked like the cloud formed and it went right across I-91 southbound and right across 91 northbound and into downtown Springfield.”
Down on the south end of the city, people along Main Street watched it swirl with debris and swiftly move north.
Many had never seen a tornado before and never thought they would.
“This doesn’t happen in Springfield,” said a woman lives downtown and had to evacuate her building. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
Mike Lynch escaped his downtown apartment with his dog.
“It went right past my window," Lynch said. "I was upstairs lying down and I woke up and I saw the whirlwind go right past the window."
Lynch's apartment is still standing, but the building was hit.
"The roof isn’t completely gone, but the top part of the building collapsed," Lynch said, "It’s amazing that the building stood because the building across the street is completely decimated.”
The apparent tornado in Springfield was one of a series of extreme weather events that crashed through western and central Massachusetts over the course of five hours Wednesday.
The devastation prompted Gov. Deval Patrick to declare a state of emergency, and led the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to dispatch crews to help city and Red Cross workers.
- Patrick Scales Back Emergency As Tornado Cleanup Continues
- Live Blog: Mass. Towns Recover From Tornadoes
- Tornado Hollows Out Brimfield’s Hollow Road
- Tornado Survivors Happy To Be Alive
- Slideshow: Monson Hit Hard By Tornado
- Tornado Aftermath: Where To Get Help, How To Help
- From The Archives: Worcester Tornado Of ’53 ‘Worse Than War’
- Earlier: Deaths, Extensive Damage After Tornadoes Hit Mass.
This program aired on June 2, 2011.
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