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Destructive tornadoes sweep through Massachusetts, kill 4

June 2, 2011

freep.com

A child runs for cover as bad weather returns to Springfield, Mass., after a tornado touched down Wednesday. Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and called up 1,000 National Guard troops.

 A child runs for cover as bad weather returns to Springfield, Mass., after a tornado touched down Wednesday. Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and called up 1,000 National Guard troops. / DON TREEGER/(Springfield, Mass.) Republican via As

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Tornadoes roared through Massachusetts on Wednesday as violent winds caused damage in about two dozen communities, ripping off roofs, uprooting trees, scattering debris and leaving at least four dead throughout the state.

The governor said the death toll was preliminary.

The storm pulverized or sheared off the tops of roofs on Main Street in Springfield, a city of more than 150,000 about 90 miles west of Boston. 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.

Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and called up 1,000 National Guardsmen after the storms, which brought scenes of devastation recently wreaked in the South and Midwest to a part of the country where such violent weather isn’t a way of life.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, said he spoke with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is to begin reviewing storm damage today.

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, said 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.

Sarno said more than 40 people have been admitted to hospitals in Springfield.

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

Since 1950, Massachusetts has had about two tornadoes per year, and there had been none since 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

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