The June 1st tornado had a lasting impression on many people, we talked with some of the areas first responders as well as people in the media and asked them to recall that day and how they reacted.
Guests: Wayne Phaneuf, Editor,The Republican; Don Treeger, Republican photographer; John Suchocki, Republican photographer; Brian Lapis, 22 News Storm Team Meteorologist; Dept Chief Joseph Conant, Springfield Fire Dept.; Capt. Pierre Grenier, Springfield Fire Dept.
Read the full transcript:
Brian Lapis, 22News Storm Team Meteorologist: A tornado in western Massachusetts track for thirty-nine miles, more or less continuously, with F3 and at times potentially EF4 damage is really unheard of.
This is really a moment in history that deserves all of the historic treatment that it gets.
Pierre Grenier, Springfield Fire Department: We heard a lot of reports of bad weather, storm cells and then going to tornado warnings. And, you know, having never seen them in this area, it was a surprise.
But we just sat tight and waited.
John Garvey, Garvey Communication: Usually, our first indication that there’s a thunderstorm, the Monarch Building, which is directly behind me, goes dark.
And that happened this day. We saw through reflection, of bad storm coming, but we didn’t really have an expectation of what was about to happen next.
John Suchoki, The Republican Photographer: Who would expect something like this? This is New England. We have — we don’t have tornado alley storms.
You just don’t have this kind of a thing. But we did.
Brian Lapis: And it looked like, again, basically your run of the mill, severe thunderstorm, straight line wind on radar. There were some indications of rotation on the radar over the Agawam area.
And then our director, it just so happens, almost out of coincidence, flipped over from the radar to our camera. And immediately, Nick and I saw these low wall clouds starting to see a little bit of rotation and then, bang.
Brian Lapis: Tornado on the ground, right now. You’re seeing it live on. 22News. Tornado on the ground.
Brian Lapis: You know, as New Englanders, we got to see something to believe something.
And I think certainly, having a tornado caught on camera like we did, showing you ground truth there is that funnel cloud crossing the Connecticut River, debris swirling around in the air as it goes into downtown Springfield.
Nick Bannon, 22News Storm Team Meteorologist: Let’s take a bit of a wider shot, if we can, just to pull it out, give some people perspective.
You can see that debris flying right across the screen here. This is incredible.
John Garvey: My first impression, what I noticed was, a branch flew by my window, which is an unusual thing on the twenty fourth floor. And so I stood up and peered over and watched that branch plummet to the earth and look to my, essentially my right from this building, and saw what — a bad windstorm essentially coming ashore.
When it hit 91, was — I became frightened almost, because of what was going to happen. I could see traffic, the, the storm itself obliterated in terms of, you know, wiped out the view to 91.
Nick BannonIf you know people driving along Interstate 91 right now, they’re driving right into it.
Wayne Phaneuf, The Republican: I actually went outside, which probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. And I actually saw the tornado come across looking down, you know, south on Main Street. You could see it when it came across.
Joseph Conant, Springfield Fire Department: The calls were backed up at dispatch. We had to start prioritizing calls because there was so many.
And we just had every truck in the city was outgoing from call to call.
Pierre Grenier: So, we went down State Street and when we started around the corner onto Main, it just was total devastation. Whole building fronts down on Main Street, light posts, just twisted steel, and total devastation.
Don Treeger, The Republican Photographer: I’ll never forget hearing one of the ambulance companies dispatching all their crews to Springfield saying, “we have a mass casualty incident in Springfield” and I’ve never heard that.
In 30 years on the job, I’ve never heard that that before.
Wayne Phaneuf: Our initial photos were pretty much of the South End, which we got down there right away.
And at that point, they were you know, you could see the devastation when it slammed into the South End. And of course, the South End Community Center was flattened.
Don Treeger: There were people running. There was devastation, there were hugs.
There was, you know, rubble. There were smashed cars.
Joseph Conant: We had one building, I believe it was on a corner of Union and Main Street, that the roof had collapsed into the third floor and water was gushing out.
So, we made some searches of those buildings down there to make sure nobody was trapped.
Wayne Phaneuf: At daylight, the first thing we knew we had to do is, we had to get somebody up in the air. John Suchoki, who does most of our flying, he got up in the air. That was really, really incredibly important.
John Suchoki: You know, at 2500 feet away, you know, everything is so small and it’s you’re not really sure, you know, from rooftops to rooftop, the path broken trees.
You don’t really see that in detail, from twenty five hundred feet, ’till you start really looking at it through the lens. Then it starts coming into focus that, “oh yeah. This is gone. This is gone.”
Don Treeger: Oftentimes when we cover disasters or murders or accidents, we’re not welcome. People don’t want to see cameras intruding on their lives. This was a different story.
The day after the tornado, when I went out to Wilbraham and Monson and started walking around communities, people welcomed us with open arms. They wanted to tell their stories, something I’ve never experienced before. Everybody wanted to talk to us.
Wayne Phaneuf: We had three sets, basically three sets of aerials and early ground photos that we’d put out as photo galleries on Masslive. We got over three million page views.
So, it gave you an idea of how much people wanted to find out about what was going on.
John Suchoki: Within a week, you could follow the path of the tornado by the blue tarps leading itself through the communities. That was pretty amazing. It took on blue river-like image from the air. Everybody had blue tarps.
Joseph Conant: The next day or two driving throughout those areas that were affected and watching the people walk around, they were almost like in a trance. Like just looking at the damage, not understanding what had happened. It was it was almost like a movie, like a horror movie, just watching people just –they’re out on the street, just walking around.
And it was it was pretty surreal to see. It was — it was amazing. They’d never been through anything like that; they couldn’t believe the destruction. And it was — that was probably the most memorable part for me.
Wayne Phaneuf: I think if you were going to take a microcosm of the of the tornado and concentrate on one community, it would probably be what happened in Monson, because Munson was per capita, probably one of the hardest hit as far as devastation goes. It came right through the center of town.
They talked about what a closer and tighter knit community it is now to what it was before the tornado, because, you know, just people who weren’t affected by the tornado in that community felt a real obligation to help because, you know, it was almost like, you know, “why not me?”
Don Treeger: This child made it underneath some downed trees on Central Street in Springfield and then started running and looking up to the sky. And I was able to capture that.
And that image to me, is — says the whole thing, you know, a child running for cover, looking up to the sky. What’s — what’s coming next?