State of emergency declared in Mass. after tornadoes hit

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Jessica Hill ~ Associated PressStorm damage is seen Wednesday in downtown Springfield, Mass. An apparent tornado struck the downtown of one of the state's largest cities on Wednesday afternoon, scattering debris, toppling trees and frightening workers and residents. Several injuries were reported.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Severe weather including what Gov. Deval Patrick called at least two tornadoes swept through parts of the state Wednesday afternoon, scattering debris, toppling trees and triggering a declaration of a state of emergency.

Patrick, who called up 1,000 National Guard troops, made the emergency declaration after heavy damage was reported in several communities, including many in the western part of the state. Patrick met with officials from the state police, state fire marshal's office, National Guard and other emergency and public safety agencies.

Patrick said he had received reports through the media of a fatality in West Springfield. That fatality apparently occurred when a car overturned in the storms. Patrick said he hadn't independently confirmed the death.

"It's been particularly devastating in downtown Springfield and the communities of Springfield and Monson," Patrick said at a Statehouse news conference after a briefing with state emergency officials.

Patrick said he had heard reports of a roof being torn off a school and damage to homes and a church. He said he also had asked superintendents in affected communities to cancel school today to aid in the cleanup.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, said he spoke with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said inspectors from the agency will be reviewing storm damage today.

Neal said he also spoke with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who told him the damage to the city was severe.

"Based on the mayor's plea to me, it's clear they're going to need federal help," Neal said.

One of the tornadoes struck downtown Springfield, one of the state's largest cities, Wednesday afternoon, frightening workers and residents. Several injuries were reported.

Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, about 90 miles west of Boston, was treating numerous injured people, some with serious force trauma injuries, spokeswoman Jane Albert said.

Among the injured in Springfield was a retired priest, according to a spokesman for the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Springfield.

The extent of his injuries was not immediately known, and the other priests living at the facility had been moved to a nearby rectory.

Since 1950, Massachusetts has had about two tornadoes per year, and there had been none since 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The last deadly tornado in the state occurred May 29, 1995, when three people were killed, it said.

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