West Springfield Fire Chief recalls damage from June 1st, 2011 tornado

Weather News

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – West Springfield had some extensive damage after the tornado rolled through a decade ago. Many residents say they remember the tornado-like it was yesterday.

June 1, 2011, is a day many people who live in western Massachusetts still can’t forget, even a decade later. Antonio Alvaro has lived in West Springfield all his life and recalls the day the tornado hit the city. Thankfully, he didn’t see any damage to his home but he remembers driving around the next day and looking at all the debris left behind.

“A lot of big trees came down. Wherever you walked or drove around, you could see the damage to the trees and the houses. A lot of destruction,” Alvaro said.

Destruction was widespread, with the Merrick section of West Springfield being hit hard. Many local schools along with the Big E fairgrounds played a big role in getting shelters up for many people who were displaced. It took weeks to clean up all the debris and destruction in West Springfield. The city’s fire department responded right away to all the calls coming in.

Chief Bill Flaherty remembers vividly rescuing one specific family, “As I walked further down and came upon George Street, and to see 10 members of the fire department along with the Agawam firefighters, who said we have to cut through the roof, plus two other floors, because we can hear a daughter that was in the bathtub and the mother on top of her.”

Flaherty was only five months into being Fire Chief at the time the tornado hit. Now a decade later, and with a lot of experience under his belt, he praises the work his team did, not only on June 1, 2011, but every day after.

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