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In Sturbridge, Tornado Damage Proves Erratic04:06
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Wednesday's tornado felled trees that damaged this Days Inn in Sturbridge. (Sacha Pfeiffer/WBUR)
Wednesday's tornado felled trees that damaged this Days Inn in Sturbridge. (Sacha Pfeiffer/WBUR)

Across several parts of Massachusetts on Thursday, the damage from Wednesday's tornadoes was extensive. In other nearby areas, though, towns escaped largely unscathed.

That's the odd thing about tornadoes: how erratic they are. Earlier on Thursday, when WBUR was out reporting in the towns of Sturbridge, Holland and Brimfield, in many spots we found just a beautiful spring day, with no sign that a tornado came through hours before.

But then, in Sturbridge, we came across a motel near the Publick House restaurant and inn that had taken the brunt of the tornado destruction.

Jay Patel has owned the Days Inn on Route 131 with his brother since 1996. It's right off Interstate 84, not far from Old Sturbridge Village.

"We are so overwhelmed with what we see," he said, "we haven't even gotten the extent of the damage."

Days Inn owner Jay Patel shows off the only motel room he's looked in so far — he's waiting for the insurance company for the rest. (Sacha Pfeiffer/WBUR)
Days Inn owner Jay Patel shows off the only motel room he's looked in so far — he's waiting for the insurance company for the rest. (Sacha Pfeiffer/WBUR)

Patel said that as soon as he heard tornado warnings, he called his brother, a manager at the Days Inn, and told him to move all of the motel's guests into its basement.

"It's a tiny place, but I said, 'Hey, it's safer than anything else,' " Patel said.

When the storm hit, it took just 41 seconds to destroy his property, according to Patel.

To get up the driveway and to the motel, we had to hurdle several massive tree trunks, step over multiple downed power lines and street lamps, and walk across sheets of siding that had been blown off the motel's walls.

Behind the property there was a huge field of trees. Almost every single one was down, like dominoes. Then we saw what was left of the swimming pool and the metal fence that once surrounded it.

The parking lot and sidewalks were so littered with splintered tree trunks that we had to scramble up and down a small brush-covered hill to get to the guest rooms. When we finally got there, Patel opened the door to the only room he's looked inside so far; he told us he's waiting for his insurance company to open the rest of them.

After being in business for more than 15 years, Patel says he now fears he is going to have to rebuild his property.

"Everything's gone," he said. "I felt like it was a 9/11 — right after 9/11, how the people were running around, When I came, I saw my brother, my guests, my family, my 77-year-old mother who barely can walk. They were all running, like so mad. They don't know what to do."

Patel said he has a special attachment to his Days Inn. It was "a special Sturbridge property," he said, "and that's what Sturbridge is going to miss."

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This program aired on June 2, 2011.

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