‘It Was Swirling And The Wind Was Going Crazy': Tornado Rips Through Springfield

Published June 1, 2011

An apartment building in Springfield destroyed by a tornado (@TheFalconsAHL/Twitter)

An apartment building in Springfield destroyed by a tornado (@TheFalconsAHL/Twitter)

A tornado? In Massachusetts?

That’s what Stephen Hanjack was thinking this afternoon.

“We heard the warnings and everything,” Hanjack said. “You really don’t even think about it until it happens.”

Hanjack and his co-workers with the Springfield Falcons, the city’s minor league hockey team, were at work on the bottom floor of the MassMutual Center when the tornado hit downtown Springfield.

“We got a few texts from people — we all live in the area — that’s when we started to realize it was getting serious,” Hanjack said. “It started getting pretty dark out. People at the windows said debris was just flying by, it just looks like a dust cloud. It was swirling and the wind was going crazy, so we just backed away from the windows.”

The tornado didn’t last long.

“We just hung tight inside and once it passed it was silent,” Hanjack said. “And then you hear all the fire and police sirens going nuts.”

Emergency crews scrambled because the tornado had hit the city hard. Hanjack and his colleagues wandered out of the arena to survey the damage.

“The first thing we did was walk down to the courthouse,” Hanjack said. “There are hundred-year-old trees, huge trees, just ripped out from their roots.”

Trees down. Cars destroyed. Buildings crumbled. The pictures Hanjack posted to the Falcons’ Twitter account look like they were taken in a war zone.

For the most part, Hanjack and the city of Springfield are still stunned.

“You look at how powerful Mother Nature can be,” Hanjack said. “I’m at a loss for words.”