Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Four Killed As Rare Tornadoes Touch Down in Western Massachusetts

Luke Rottman/eyewitness photo- Springfield Republican
Four people were killed and 33 were reportedly seriously injured after a series of tornadoes made their way across Western Massachusetts, including one that tore through the downtown area of Springfield, MA- the third largest city in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts State Troopers were going door to door and searching wreckage throughout Hampden County on Wednesday night in the wake of the twisters.

The storm pulverized or sheared off the tops of roofs on Main Street in Springfield, a city of more than 150,000. A mounted video camera captured dramatic footage of a debris-filled funnel as it swept into downtown from the west, then crossed the Connecticut River.

The Rev. Bob Marrone of The First Church of Monson said the storm cleared a view he's never seen across the valley where the town sits.

"I can see the plywood of roofs, and see houses where most of the house is gone," said Marrone, whose church's steeple was knocked down. "The road that runs up in front of my house ... There's so many trees down, it's completely impassable."

Thomas Walsh, a spokesman for Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, told The Associated Press he was looking out his City Hall window around 4:30 p.m. when he saw the funnel.

"I could see this massive cloud of debris floating around in a circular, cylindrical fashion," he said.

At least four people were killed from the storms, Patrick said. State police report 33 injuries in Springfield. Police said five of the injuries were reported serious and required surgery.

"It looked like birds were flying out of the trees and it was rubble," said Martha Vachon of Photography by Duval of Palmer, who was photographing the Minnechaug Regional High School prom in downtown Springfield, which went on as planned.

Around 55,000 customers National Grid, Western Mass. Electric and Unitil were reportedly without power.

State police said in addition to Springfield they have reports of tornadoes in the communities of Agawam, Charlton, Monson, Oxford, West Springfield, Westfield, Wilbraham and Sturbridge.
Gov. Patrick has declared a state of emergency and called up about 1000 members of the Massachusetts National Guard in the aftermath of the severe weather. A spokesman from the governor's office said the death toll was a preliminary number as rescuers worked through the night.

The tornadoes were part of a larger storm system along the East Coast that triggered severe weather warnings from Philadelphia to Maine.

Ongoing local coverage of the tornadoes and aftermath is available at the Springfield Republican homepage.

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