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Storm Causes Extensive Tree Damage In Springfield

Tropical Storm Isaias caused extensive tree damage in the largest city in western Massachusetts.

As wind gusts in the area hit 63 mph Tuesday evening, Dorothy Larned was in her house on Garland Street in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood.

"I heard a big bang," said Larned. "I didn't know exactly what it was, but I figured it was the tree. So, I came out here and my neighbors were over here to see if I was OK."

The big maple tree in her front yard, that Larned said was “a twig” when she moved in 69 years ago, had snapped.   It narrowly missed her Cape-style house as it fell, and landed on top of her car.

"It could have hit the house, or I could have been in my car," said Larned.

All across the city the storm brought down trees -- definitely hundreds of trees, perhaps more than a thousand, said Pat Sullivan, the city’s parks director.

"We have many houses affected," said Sullivan, who estimated Wednesday that cleanup would take a week.

A tree fell on the Talmadge Elementary School.

In one short stretch of Roosevelt Avenue – a major thoroughfare that bisects the city – four trees came down.

Sullivan said the city’s three Forestry Division crews are being supplemented by workers from the parks department and the DPW.

National Guard troops were also being dispatched to Springfield to help with the storm clean-up efforts.

"They'll bring their chainsaws and manpower so they will be invaluable in getting the roads opened up and then moving on to the school grounds and parks," said Sullivan.  He said the school playgrounds and parks are a priority so children are not tempted to play on the large downed tree limbs and get hurt.

Sullivan said the city’s largest park, Forest Park, will be closed to the public for at least the next two days because of extensive tree damage.

The city of Springfield reported 11,225 power outages Wednesday morning – the highest number of any municipality in Massachusetts.

"We got hit pretty hard here, " said Mayor Domenic Sarno. He declared a state of emergency Wednesday morning to open the possibility the city could be reimbursed for some of the storm-related expenses.

The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission said on Tuesday, a storm-related power outage and backup generator failure at the Indian Orchard Pump Station led to the release of an estimated 500,000 to 750,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into the Chicopee River. 

As if the storm damage and power outages were not enough, thousands of Springfield residents and businesses found they had no water after a 36-inch pipe burst beneath a street in the city’s South End at about 5 a.m. Wednesday.

The water was back on in most places by noon.

Springfield Water and Sewer Commission Executive Director Josh Schimmel said the cast iron main where the break occurred was installed in 1907.

"That pipe did not have any history of breaks and so it was not on the list for replacement anytime soon,"  said Schimmel.

The Commission says an estimated 2.1 million gallons of untreated wastewater entered the Connecticut River because of the water main break Wednesday morning.

Citing the widespread power outages and the water shutoff, Mayor Sarno issued a shelter-in-place advisory just after 7 a.m. Wednesday. It was later lifted.            

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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