SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - A tornado outbreak caused damage across Western Massachusetts Wednesday afternoon, including one that crossed the Connecticut River from West Springfield into the city's downtown and South End, crossing the Connecticut River and Interstate 91.
At least four people have died. Governor Deval Patrick told the Associated Press that one person was killed in West Springfield, two in Westfield, and one in Brimfield. West Springfield Police Captain O'Brien told 22News that that a man was travelling in his car down Main Street in West Springfield, when a tree fell on top of it during the storm, killing him.
Massachusetts State Police Trooper Sean Quirk told 22News that the death in Brimfield happened at the Village Green Campground, located off Route 20.
Jane Albert of Baystate Medical Center told 22News that the hospital is caring for 25 people who are injured, 10 of whom are in the trauma unit. There are at least 20 other reports of injuries.
Governor Deval Patrick has declared a state of emergency, and 1,000 National Guard troops are headed to affected areas. Patrick, along with Mayor Domenic Sarno and Senator John Kerry, will appear at a news conference at 11:00 P.M.
Sarno said that the federal and state emergency agencies are helping to address the situation. He said that the South End, East Forest Park, and Sixteen Acres were the sections of the city that were hit the hardest. The Indian Orchard neighborhood also saw damage. He said that the city is re-assessing the situation, and that they will have a better idea of the extent of the damage Thursday morning.
Kerry congratulated local and state officials for their quick response to the tornado outbreak. He said that he expects federal funds to be forthcoming.
Thomas Walsh, aide to Mayor Domenic Sarno, told 22News that residents are being asked to stay off the roads so that emergency workers can do their jobs.
Mayor Sarno told 22News that all Springfield schools will be closed on Thursday. Westfield's Munger Hill School will also be closed on both Thursday and Friday. Several other area schools and businesses will be closed as well. Jurors for all Hampden County courts are not to report for jury duty Thursday.
Shelters for tornado victims have been set up in West Springfield, Wilbraham, Springfield, Monson, and Palmer. About 250 people are being sheltered at the MassMutual Center, Governor Patrick said.
The State Police Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) has been called in to help search damaged buildings for the possibility that anyone is trapped. Traffic into the city is being limited, as highway ramps leading to the city have been closed by State Police.
There are numerous trees down in the area, buildings have collapsed, cars have been thrown and crushed, and many roads are impassible.
There are also reports of additional tornadoes touching down in Wilbraham and in Agawam. Wilbraham Police called 22News to warn people living in the south side of town about the tornado danger.
National Grid reports thousands of power outages in Wilbraham and Hampden. There was a total of more than 60,000 power outages in communities serviced by Western Massachusetts Electric Company.
The 22News Springfield Skycam captured images of the Springfield tornado as it crossed the river, as well as downed trees at Riverfront Park in Springfield.
Traffic on the Memorial Bridge, Route 5 in West Springfield, and the Memorial Bridge rotary were all heavily backed up in the storm's aftermath, as a tractor trailer had overturned on the bridge.
22News is at Main and Union Streets in the South End, where there is damage to buildings, including the collapse of the top stories of a building on Main Street and as well as downed trees. Area buildings, such as the South End Community Center were heavily damaged.
Mark Dupont, Spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, told 22News that there was damage to Cathedral High School. Students were inside the building at the time, but Dupont says they were safe.
If you are in a safe place, you are urged to stay where you are, and not head out to study damage.
The Pioneer Valley Red Cross is accepting limited volunteers. If you can help, you must come in person to the Pioneer Valley Red Cross headquarters at 506 Cottage St. in Springfield starting at 9:30 A.M. You will have to fill out an application, be screened for interest and available opportunities, and complete a background check. You must bring a photo ID. You can also help by making a financial contribution at the Red Cross website , or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.
22News is continuing to follow this breaking news story. Stay with 22News and WWLP.com for the latest.