Central and western Massachusetts today surveyed the widespread damage after at least two late-afternoon tornadoes shocked emergency officials with their violence and caused the state's first tornado-related deaths in 16 years. Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown joined Gov. Deval Patrick on a helicopter tour of the damaged areas, including Springfield, the state's third-largest city. Kerry said it looked like a "blast zone" and was confident that federal disaster aid would be forthcoming, particularly because of damage to businesses.
"You have to see it to believe it," said Patrick of the devastation in Monson, a town near the Connecticut border. "Houses have been lifted up off their foundations and in some cases totally destroyed or moved several feet." Severe thunderstorms are not unusual for Massachusetts, but strong tornadoes ripping a path through cities the size of Springfield are, said a Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency rep. Massachusetts hasn't experienced a tornado since 2008, according to the Storm Prediction Center. (Read more severe weather stories.)