Boston Globe: Tornado touched down in North Brookfield on Sunday, as torrential rains pounded Massachusetts
The rapidly evolving spate of severe weather triggered thunderstorm and tornado warnings across the state
Severe weather battered the state Sunday, as a tornado touched down in North Brookfield and powerful thunderstorms dumped inches of rain in some areas, flooding streets and slamming farms already beleaguered by downpours just days ago.
The tornado that struck North Brookfield just before 11 a.m. damaged trees, but no injuries were reported.
In Fitchburg, images of floodwater gushing down roadways were shared on social media.
And for the state’s farms — which had also suffered damaging deep freezes earlier this year — Sunday’s rains only exacerbated their struggles.
Brittany Terry, the farm manager at Natural Roots Farm in Conway, said the storms have caused an estimated $100,000 in losses, plus tens of thousands more in cleanup and repair costs.
‘It’s completely catastrophic to our business this year,” Terry said. “A lot of the things that we had in the ground were lost, there’s absolutely no way for us to even try to replant them.”
Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll toured the farm last week to survey storm damage.
The volatile weather that struck the state Sunday was part of storm activity that soaked the Northeast — from Washington D.C. to Maine, as well as parts of New York and Pennsylvania — with heavy rain and spurred flash flood warnings, according to the weather service.
A tornado watch was in place for most of Massachusetts Sunday from early morning to 3 p.m. At one point during the morning, more than 3,300 customers lost power, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. There were about 970 outages by late Sunday night.
The wild weather came on the heels of devastating storms that struck the western part of Massachusetts last week and damaged scores of farms, ruined crops, washed out roads, and left some spots inaccessible due to standing water.
Officials have toured the areas damaged by the earlier storms, including Governor Maura Healey, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, and US Representative James McGovern, along with Driscoll.
Warren said in a statement to the Globe Sunday afternoon that more must be done to support the farms damaged by the severe weather.
“I’m deeply concerned about both the immediate crop loss and also the long-term impact, and working with state and federal officials to explore recovery resources,” she said.
At least 75 farms have been affected by the storms in Massachusetts, with more than 1,000 acres of crop losses, according to the state Department of Agricultural Resources.
Karissa Hand, a spokesperson for Healey, said in a statement that the governor and Driscoll are concerned about the impacts of the flooding on Massachusetts farms.
“We have been in constant contact with farms, other institutions in our local food supply chain, and local officials, with several members of our administration visiting impacted farms over the past week,” Hand said. “We are continuing to assess the scale of the ongoing damage and working closely with our federal partners to identify badly needed funding assistance that may be available.”
Healey is expected to visit farms affected by the storm again this week, according to her office. The state has set up a website for people and businesses seeking help to recover from this month’s storm activity.
Philip Korman, executive director of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, which works with about 250 farms in Central and Western Massachusetts, said farms have been facing more weather changes that have become increasingly harder to predict.
“It seems pretty obvious that weather patterns have changed dramatically, and we don’t yet know what that new pattern is,” Korman said. “This seemed to come without warning. Farmers had no real opportunity to protect crops.”
He said state and federal governments must do more to help shore up farms, including launching a dedicated disaster relief fund to support them now and during future crises.
The forecast for the coming week in Western Massachusetts indicates more wet weather.
While no rain is anticipated Monday, forecasters predict rainfall on Tuesday. Showers and thunderstorms will likely roll in during the afternoon, plus more storms during the evening.
And after a respite from rain Wednesday, there is a chance of showers Thursday during the day and evening. Thunderstorms are likely on Friday, according to forecasters.
Terry, with the Conway farm, said they’ve launched a GoFundMe to raise $85,000, which is needed to cover losses and the cost of repairs from the rains.
She said last week’s storms washed out a road, toppled trees, and flooded fields. Even if produce wasn’t carried away by the flooding, the contaminated water means that those plantings can’t be used for food.
“We’re not able to harvest any of it, and it’s just so heartbreaking,” she said. “This type of flooding is like a once-in-100-year event and now it has happened twice in the last few decades with [Tropical Storm] Irene and now… it’s scary.”
Globe correspondents Bailey Allen and Nick Stoico contributed to this report.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.