A police officer checks on people in a house after a reported tornado swept through Springfield, one of Massachusetts' largest cities. (Photo: AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Massachusetts became the latest host to destructive tornadoes, as several tornadoes ripped through the western and central parts of the state Wednesday. The storms killed four people, injured others, destroyed homes and businesses and wracked 19 communities. More than 50,000 state residents also lost power.
Tornadoes are not usual in Massachusetts, the last one hit the state in 1995 on Memorial day and killed three people. Twisters occur when moist, warm air near the ground hits colder higher air. Local Massachusetts television stations tracked the storms' devastation.
The Boston Globe reported that Gov. Deval Patrick had declared a state of emergency and 1,000 members of the Massachusetts National Guard were ordered to affected areas. Schools were closed and non-emergency personnel were asked to stay home.
In a press conference from the state’s emergency management headquarters in the town of Framingham, west of Boston, an unaffected area, Patrick, the nation’s only African-American governor said: “We are in an emergency situation. We are hoping and praying and working as hard as possible to keep the fatalities limited to those four.”
Patrick also said that two deaths occurred in West Springfield, in the center of the state, and that there had been reports of looting in the nearby city of Springfield, where one person died. The city has 153,000 residents. The other fatality took place in the small town of Brimfield, which is near Springfield.