REVERE, Mass. — A storm system that wreaked havoc across the eastern half of the U.S. spawned a tornado just north of Boston on Monday, ripping roofs off homes, uprooting dozens of large trees and forcing businesses to close.
The tornado – a rarity in Massachusetts and virtually unheard of in the Boston area – touched down in Revere, a coastal city of nearly 52,000. City officials said there were no immediate reports of serious injuries, but several people suffered minor injuries, including a baby who was in a car and hurt by flying glass and an elderly woman who suffered cuts.
“Given the magnitude of the storm, it’s really a miracle that no one sustained more serious injuries,” said Mayor Dan Rizzo.
Gov. Deval Patrick said state emergency officials were on the scene and would “do whatever we can to help them stand up again.”
The tornado was spawned by a powerful storm that moved through the Boston area shortly after 9 a.m. Revere residents said it touched down around 10 a.m. and lasted about five minutes.
The National Weather Service’s office in Massachusetts said it was the first tornado in Suffolk County, which includes Boston and the northern communities of Revere, Chelsea and Winthrop, since the agency began keeping records on them in 1950. Massachusetts has had 162 confirmed tornadoes during that time, the majority of them weak, according to meteorologist Kim Buttrick.
Revere officials were assessing the extent of the damage early Monday afternoon and going door-to-door in neighborhoods around the city’s busy commercial thoroughfare of Broadway, which appeared to have sustained the brunt of the damage. Officials were advising many residents not to return to their homes until they could confirm there were no gas leaks.
Rizzo said he expected the city to open a shelter for residents who needed one.
Paul and Patty Carrabes said they were both at work when the wind tore the roof off their Revere Beach Parkway home.
“I probably would have died if I was in there,” said Patty Carrabes said.
About a block over, Luis Fonseca said emergency warnings came too late. By the time a tornado warning popped up on his cellphone, he was already running to the basement with his niece and nephew as windows shattered and the wooden house swayed from side to side.
Other residents said they received the warnings roughly 10 minutes before the tornado hit, giving them enough time to find shelter.
Communities across the U.S. were cleaning up Monday after strong storms destroyed homes, knocked out power for thousands of people and toppled power lines and trees.
In eastern Tennessee, officials said there were no reports of any deaths or injuries from Sunday’s storms, though at least 10 homes were destroyed.
In Kentucky, National Weather Service forecaster Tony Edwards said some areas got softball-sized hail Sunday.
Massive hail also was reported in Michigan, where winds toppled trees and ripped the roofs off buildings. And in Ohio, some roads had been blocked by flash flooding. In Pennsylvania, nighttime storms knocked out power to thousands.
In Revere, business owners cleared broken glass from shattered windows as cleanup crews broke apart downed trees and fallen billboards. Rizzo said City Hall was damaged and likely would be closed for a couple of days.
A few Broadway businesses still had power and reopened Monday afternoon. The Revere House of Pizza had a steady stream of customers, despite damage to the building’s exterior.
“We’re full throttle now,” said general manager Arthur Pirint.
A few block over at N.C.’s Auto Repairs, owner John Curley sat at his desk looking up at where the roof used to be. The garage bay was filled with rubble.
Curley said he and his workers were mostly unharmed.
“We’re really just trying to absorb what happened,” he said. “My concern now is really for my guys. Their livelihoods depend on this place.”
Associated Press writers Bob Salsberg, Denise Lavoie and Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.