Heavy storm winds rip roofs off two Holyoke apartment buildings, 141 people displaced

  • Rubble from the roof collapse at two apartment buildings Friday night in Holyoke rained down to the sidewalk and street below. FACEBOOK/LOCAL 1693 HOLYOKE FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION

  • Rubble from the roof collapse at two apartment buildings Friday night in Holyoke rained down to the sidewalk and street below. FACEBOOK/ALEX MORSE

  • Rubble from the roof collapse Friday night at two apartment buildings in Holyoke rained down to the sidewalk and street below. SUBMITTED PHOTO/HOLYOKE FIRE DEPARTMENT

  • The roof of this building at 151 West St. in the Flats neighborhood of Holyoke sustained damage from strong winds on Friday evening, spilling debris onto the street and damaging several cars. The building, also called the “Lionel”, is part of the Sergeant West Apartments complex that occupies three of the four corners of the intersection. Two large sheets of roll roofing, still partially attached to the roof, can be seen hanging from the top of the building. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Several cars in the Flats neighborhood of Holyoke are seen damaged Saturday by debris that came off the roof of 151 West St. in high winds Friday evening. A large sheet of roll roofing, still partially attached to the roof, can be seen hanging off the top of the building. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Strong winds Friday evening apparently toppled part of the cornice on the north side of this four-story apartment building at 176 West St. in the Flats neighborhood of Holyoke, spilling bricks onto East Dwight Street and damaging at least one car, seen Saturday. The building is one of two buildings in the Sergeant West Apartments II complex that sustained roof damage. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Strong winds caused extensive damage Friday evening to the roofs of two of the brick apartment buildings at the intersection of East Dwight and West Streets in the Flats neighborhood of Holyoke, seen Saturday. This is the back of 176 West St., which also lost part of its facade on East Dwight Street, spilling bricks onto the street and damaging at least one car. The complex of four- and five-story buildings is called Sergeant West Apartments and managed by Mount Holyoke Management LLC of Holyoke. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Strong winds Friday evening toppled part of the cornice on the north side of a four-story apartment building in the Sargent West Apartments complex at 176 West St. in the Flats neighborhood of Holyoke, seen Saturday.  STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Strong winds Friday evening toppled part of the cornice on the north side of a four-story apartment building at 176 West St. in the Flats neighborhood of Holyoke, spilling bricks and damaging at least one car on East Dwight Street, seen Saturday looking east on East Dwight Street. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Several cars in the Flats neighborhood of Holyoke were damaged Friday night by debris that came off the roofs of two buildings in the Sergeant West Apartments complex, at the corner of West and East Dwight streets, seen Saturday. Two large sheets of roll roofing, still partially attached to the roof, can be seen hanging off the top of this building at 151 West St.. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/16/2020 10:32:13 AM

HOLYOKE — Heavy winds from thunderstorms Friday night ripped the roofs off of two apartment blocks on West Street, leaving 141 people displaced and two people with minor injuries. 

Apartment blocks at 151 and 176 West St. received extensive damage during the storm, with entire roof sections of the buildings crashing to the street below, falling onto multiple parked cars and raining bricks across the street and sidewalks, according to Holyoke Fire Department Capt. Kevin Cavagnac. The National Weather Service reported the heavy roof damage to the buildings, along with several side wall portions collapsed, at 8:05 p.m.

There are a total of 47 apartments between the two buildings, Cavagnac said. Mayor Alex Morse said in a phone interview Saturday that the two people injured have since been discharged from the hospital.

Morse said that because it was raining, the Dr. Marcella R. Kelly School on West Street was opened to house families while officials worked to get those displaced into the Fairfield Inn & Suites Springfield-Holyoke on Whiting Farms Road. The building’s owner and landlord paid for everyone’s room on Friday night, Morse said.

Around 20 families were still staying at the hotel as of Sunday evening, according to its general manager, Seth Zenitz. These families are also receiving assistance from the Red Cross, he said.

“Everybody is there at this point,” Morse said.

The mayor said he has been in touch with the state Department of Housing and Community Development and was told there will be emergency funding available for permanent rehousing of the displaced tenants. While renovations are happening, Morse said, the city will be looking to help coordinate ways to get displaced tenants into currently vacant property.

“Until that happens, we’ll do everything we can to make sure to compel the landlord to continue paying for hotels until there is permanent rehousing or a plan,” Morse said. “We don’t want any family homeless or on the street.”

Morse said the city’s building commissioner was working to assess the damage. The buildings are not a loss but significant repairs are needed, including insulation and roofing, according to Morse, which the commissioner estimates could take up to six months.

In 2004, Sargent West Apartments II Limited Partnership paid Sargent West Apartments Associates $3.3 million for a number of properties in Holyoke, including those affected in Friday’s storm, according to state property records

A line of thunderstorms moved into Massachusetts from east/central New York on Friday night, bringing winds with speeds reaching up to 60-70 mph, including in Holyoke, said Andrew Loconto, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norton.

“This here is a line of storms that had a core of really strong winds that were transported down to the ground,” Loconto said.

Loconto said photos of the damage indicated that the destruction was caused by straight-line wind damage and not tornados. As of late Saturday morning, National Grid reported that more than 8,000 customers were still without power across the state.

At the West Street apartment buildings, residents of the lower floors were allowed back in to retreive belongings, though those from the fourth floor were not, Morse said.

Morse, who said he admires and was humbled by the resilience of community members amid trauma and crisis, said it was “miraculous” that no one was seriously injured. 

“To think that in the middle of this pandemic that folks are now out of their homes, the one place that provides comfort and security, is really unfortunate,” he said.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com. 
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