Surviving the Storm: Pets Outlive Tornado's Strike
"Hampshire and Franklin County came out to help," she said. The Boston Animal Rescue League, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the North Shore Animal League, the Connecticut Humane Society, the Monadnock Humane Society and House Rabbitt Connection also helped clear out the Dakin shelters and placed pets in new homes.
The night of the tornado, Peebles went to the Mass Mutual Center, where a Red Cross shelter had been established for tornado victims. Some of the people come with their animals.
"Nobody complained," she said. "They welcomed them." Peebles said the people seemed calm. The Mass Mutual brought in two big-screen televisions, so the people could watch the news and the Stanley Cup playoff game. That helped everyone feel better, but the animals were stunned.
"The animals were just― almost in a state of submission. They shut down almost." Peebles and other humane workers gave water and food and made the pets comfortable in blanket-covered crates.
"That took away a lot of the confusion," she said.
More than 100 pets came to the Mass Mutual, Peebles estimated. By morning, relatives and friends had stepped up and taken about half of them. Only 15 remained in need of shelter. They went to the Dakin, she said.
About a dozen animals were treated for injuries in the storm's immediate aftermath, Peebles said.
Springfield Animal Control Officer Erick Velez said there is still no hard information about how many city pets have been killed, hurt or lost.
"It's really tough to know," he said. "Many are still out there." Velez held a Chihuahua found June 6 wandering the streets.
"She came in over the counter," he said. The person who delivered her to the T.J. O'Connor said she was found on Clifton Avenue. Her name, Nina, is on her collar, but no one has claimed her.
"She's been very scared," he said. The dog had been too frightened to make friends, but then she suddenly decided to adopt him.
"Twenty minutes ago, she came over to me," he said.
Peebles said Nina "really puts a face" on the Springfield tornado. If there's a message for people, it's this: "We're sitting here in New England, and we didn't think this would happen to us. Get prepared. Get your neighbors prepared. Get your dogs microchipped. Make sure your own home front is prepared."
Peebles said she wasn't prepared for a disaster, but now she will be ready.
The tornado did not damage the T.J. O'Connor building, but the Dakin's Springfield shelter was in the funnel cloud's direct path.
The pets, the staff and the volunteers were not injured, Lash said, but the impact from the tornado imploded windows and shattered glass all over the building, hallways and stairs.
Lash was in a meeting on the second floor when the storm started. Weather forecasters had predicted wind gusts, but no one expected a tornado.
At first, she thought she was looking at a familiar flock of birds a little off in the distance.
"They swarm and dip," she said. As the debris grew larger, she realized she wasn't looking at the birds.
"I could see a lot of debris going by the window," she said. "There were big pieces of roofing and doors going by. I started to see it rotate." Realizing they were in for a tornado, Lash and the shelter director headed downstairs; they made it to the first landing when her ears popped.
"You could hear glass smashing into the atrium," she said, pointing to the plywood boards where windows used to hang. "That glass smashed and went everywhere."
Outside, Lash pointed to a tumble of ruined buildings.
The rubble behind the Dakin's Springfield building stretches for city blocks. The tornado destroyed two different parts of Springfield -- East Forest Park, a middle class neighborhood where many people have lived for decades, and the south end where the Dakin stands and where many of the poorest people live.
Behind the Dakin, the tornado ripped out a fourth floor apartment building, peeled off the roof of the South End Community Center, and threw over fences, trees and walls.
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