June 2 (Bloomberg) -- Tornadoes touched down across south- central Massachusetts late yesterday afternoon, killing at least four people, injuring others and damaging buildings, cars and trees.
Scott MacLeod, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said there were four fatalities. Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and called up 1,000 National Guard troops to assist in rescue efforts.
Two people were killed in Westfield, one in Brimfield and one in West Springfield, said MacLeod, who had no further details on the deaths. The three towns are within 10 miles of the Connecticut state border, where the worst tornado activity was centered.
“The severity of these tornadoes is something we haven’t seen in a very long time in Massachusetts,” MacLeod said in a telephone interview from the agency’s emergency headquarters in Framingham, Massachusetts. “It won’t be until sun-up when we can get better information on the extent of the damage.”
Possible tornado sightings were reported in 20 separate towns, though the National Weather Service had confirmed only the two in the Springfield area as of last night, said MacLeod. Analysts should be able to get a better sense of how many tornadoes there were and where they struck tomorrow, he said.
David Graves, a spokesman for National Grid Plc, said the storms cut power to about 33,500 of the utility’s customers in Massachusetts, mostly in areas east of Springfield and south of Worcester. Graves said portions of both the transmission and distribution systems were “very heavily damaged.”
“We’re looking at a multi-day event” in restoring power to customers, he said. The utility provides electricity to New York and New England.
One of the tornadoes overturned a car in West Springfield, killing one person, the governor said. In downtown Springfield, a second twister was reported.
“We have buildings collapsed,” said Jack Baker, an official with the West Springfield Fire Department, in a telephone interview. “It went right through town.”
Brian Freeman, a Westfield police officer, said another tornado touched down there just before 5 p.m. local time. He reported trees and power lines down.
Amtrak said service to Springfield from New Haven, Connecticut, was disrupted due to weather-related problems.
The New York City area and parts of the Northeast from Pennsylvania to Maine were under a tornado watch until 8 p.m. local time yesterday, according to the National Weather Service.
Tornadoes have killed more than 500 people across the U.S. this year, including at least 134 in Joplin, Missouri, on May 22 in one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history. The tornadoes have destroyed at least $3 billion to $6.5 billion of insured property, said Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute in New York.
--With assistance from Leela Landress in Houston. Editors: Sylvia Wier, Mike Millard
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