Soldiers, Onlookers And Safety Officials Process Damage In Springfield

By Phillip Martin

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June 3, 2011

Onlookers gaze at a felled tree on Wednesday, one day after a tornado hit the city's downtown area. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

BOSTON — Massachusetts officials are still assessing the damage from multiple tornadoes that swept through Springfield and a number of other communities Wednesday. At least 200 buildings were destroyed and four people died during the storms. Gov. Deval Patrick toured the region and confirmed that 35 buildings were destroyed in Springfield, 88 in West Springfield, and at least 77 in Monson.  

In Springfield’s South End, Massachusetts Public Safety Commissioner Tom Gatzonis spend the day doing rapid assessments.
 
“Getting a quick inventory of the damage of the buildings and scope, quantity and further assessments will be done from there,” Gatzonis said.

Governor Patrick declared a state of emergency and mobilized up to 1,000 National Guard soldiers to help with the clean up in downtown Springfield. Specialist Brian Spenser was among those on duty on Thursday, trying to keep curiosity seekers at bay.

“We staged out at the Basketball Hall of Fame and we got our mission from there to go and do health and welfare checks in certain houses (his telephone comes on here) and now they’ve stationed us here to block the streets off because there is a gas leak down there,” Spenser said.
 
But he said it was difficult to keep onlookers out of unsafe areas.

“Trying to push the people down and there’s only so many people down here to do it,” Spenser said.

Meanwhile, public safety and emergency management officials say that between 40,000 to 41,000 homes and businesses were without power and about 300 people were still in shelters. Some were initially housed overnight at the Mass Mutual center in downtown Springfield. Matt Hollander is the General Manager.

“The storm hit very close to our venue.  And a lot of people were displaced from their homes and there were still unsafe conditions in the area with the storms continuing to come through. So it was more a combination of the public safety officials wanting people to be indoors and some place that was safe and we had the ability to deal with that immediate need. There were a lot of young children here. Some older folks as well,” Hollander said.



'JAW-DROPPING' DESTRUCTION AFTER MASS. TORNADO

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