Andrea R. Reid didn't get the chance to run for her building's
When a tornado ripped through Reid & Gaudet Law Group LLP's
downtown Springfield office at 969 Main St., all she could do was
dive under her desk and wait out the chaos of swirling winds,
shattered windows and flying debris.
After tornadoes unleashed their fury on Western and Central
Massachusetts June 1, three people were dead and around 300
hospitalized, with $175 million in property damage claims. Gov.
Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency after the storm. After
President Barack Obama approved disaster relief funding, Patrick
signed a bill that included $15 million to help residents and
businesses recover from the damage.
"All hell just broke loose"
When the twister passed, it was hard for Reid to fathom what had
happened. It was, she said, an unreal scene: The three-story office
building no longer had a third floor, and part of its second floor
was ripped apart. Her car, parked nearby in an open-air lot, was
crushed by the storm, which lasted just about a minute.
"The third floor of the building we occupied was completely gone,"
Reid realized after getting up and wandering outside. "It was just
a couple of bricks left hanging. The second floor was semi-gone.
The first floor walls and ceiling were still there."
Reid, who left the office without her computer hard drive or any
of her clients' files, was shocked again when she returned two days
later and found that the city had razed her crippled building and
"They demolished the building -- in fact, the entire city
block," she said. "It was so surreal I had to take pictures of it.
It was just surreal. You just had to capture the moment."
There had been no warning that the building would be leveled, she
said, so she hadn't thought to try and retrieve any of her files.
In some cases, clients had copies of their files, and some
documents were on file at court. But she spent days figuring out
what she had and what she had to do. Three weeks after the building
was torn down, she still hadn't been reassured that any of her
clients' sensitive information had been securely disposed of amid
the chunks of rubble and broken glass that were hauled away. Now
she's planning to invest in scanning equipment to keep backup
copies of her files -- just in case there's another freak
The thought of tornadoes or some other force of nature striking
downtown Springfield again may be hard to imagine, but no one
thought that their businesses would be upended the way they were on
June 1, either.
Reid said her partner, Lynn Gaudet, who works out of the firm's
Leominster office, had called a little after 4 p.m. to warn her of
the possibility that tornadoes might strike the area. Reid, who is
on the city's emergency contact list, said she hadn't received any
other warnings and thought it must have been a Springfield in the
Midwest that was in danger, not taking the warning seriously.
About 10 or 15 minutes after Gaudet's call, Reid noticed the wind
started picking up and the door flew open, so she went to lock it.
That's when it struck.
"All hell just broke loose. I didn't have any time to do anything
but dive under the desk. It was like the world was ending. We just
completely got slammed. Suddenly I had no other choice than to dive
for cover. There was no way I even had time to think of (going to
the basement). You cannot believe the force of the wind, the noise,
the destruction. When you look at the level of destruction, you
say, 'There's no way that could have happened in a minute, a minute
and a half, tops.'"
She was still huddled under the desk when the wind and noise died
down, leaving behind a thick cloud of dust. "That's when it clicked
for me that I was still alive," she said. "I got out from under
desk. I remember I was shaking a lot. There was debris and trees
and buildings littering the streets. Everyone in proximity was
crawling out of whatever shelter they took. At that point, I
started to freak out and started panicking."
Cell phone service was out, so she wandered back into the building
and called Gaudet, whose warning she had dismissed.
"Now," Reid said, "we have this running joke that 'You never
listen to me.'"
Lawyers helping lawyers
Hampden County Bar Association President Thomas A. Kenefick III
estimated that 25 to 30 lawyers in the area were affected by the
tornado, but said it would probably take a month or more to know
the extent of the impact.
"It's been difficult. You really can't minimize the damage the
tornado did," he said. "It's been something that's just
unprecedented. It certainly left its mark. It's been a numbing
experience to many."
A number of attorneys have needed help, including legal help
outside of their areas of expertise, Kenefick said, particularly
real estate law. Lawyers whose offices were damaged suddenly found
themselves needing legal advice about obtaining lease abatements
and site engineer evaluation reports from their landlords.
A number of Hampden County Bar members have used the association's
offices to conduct business while they're displaced, he said.
Similarly, the MBA has made space at its office at 73 State St. in
Springfield - which was spared from damage - available to
attorneys in need.
The HCBA and MBA also jointly offered a Dial-A-Lawyer program on
June 22 (see story on page 7) in which residents affected by the
tornadoes could call in and receive free legal
"Everything was lost"
Dale E. Bass, a solo criminal defense attorney, noticed the
weather turning nasty and decided to head home early, around 4
"About a half hour before the tornado hit, it was pouring rain,
hailing, raining sideways. I said 'I'm going to leave before it
gets any worse.' I just thought it was a terrible rainstorm."
When he arrived home in Wilbraham, his family was worried by the
tornado warnings in the area. One missed their house by about a
mile, he said. They lost power, so he didn't know how bad things
were right away.
Bass went to his office the next day and found the building had
been heavily damaged. The city had condemned the building the night
the tornado struck and started tearing it down the next day.
Police, who thought Bass might be looting the building, stopped
him. He explained that his office was inside, but they still
wouldn't let him inside because officials had deemed it
"Everything was lost," he said. Bass owned the commercial
condominium in his building, which included an architect and an
advertising firm, as well as living space. A meeting with the condo
owners was scheduled, and there is talk of rebuilding, he said, but
that might take a year. In the meantime, a friend had office space
available that Bass is using now, along with a new computer,
scanner, printer and fax.
Bass was able to salvage some files, including pre-trial motions,
from CD-ROMs he had at home, and he was able to get other files for
three murder cases he's handling.
"Basically, I'm up and running," Bass said. "I went to the clerk's
office and got the forms. The DA's office was kind enough to give
me the entire case file on CD-ROM. The DA's office was
The experience has convinced him of the value of paperless
"I'm going completely electronic," he said. "I'm not going to make
that mistake again."
"Come on, this is Springfield, Mass."
Karen M. Duffy, a solo practitioner, hasn't had as easy a time
recovering. Her office, on the second floor of a three-story
building at 55 State St., sustained damage on the upper
"It suffered serious roof damage and possible structural damage,
broken windows," Duffy said. The top floor suffered the worst
damage, but on the second floor, doors no longer shut properly,
baseboards no longer matched up with the floor, and sinkholes
appeared. "There were rumors they were going to condemn our
building, so I drove down to the office with some boxes so I could
salvage the files I could."
She was able to retrieve her computer's hard drive and three
plastic bins of probate files, but none of her juvenile files.
Those will be more easily replaceable, and, she said, "I could only
take so much."
Duffy wasn't willing to go into the building again because of the
damage, and she's been frustrated by a lack of communication with
her landlord about the building and its condition.
"Limboland really stinks. It makes it difficult to do anything.
I'm not comfortable going back to that space," she said. "It's been
very unsettling not getting any answers."
Several weeks after the tornado, Duffy has been working from home
and occasionally been using the offices of colleagues and the MBA
to meet with clients. "People have been really super helpful, and
most lawyers and clients have been really understanding," she said.
She was even allowed to submit a financial statement in handwriting
because, at the time, she didn't have any office equipment with
which to produce it.
She was eager to find new office space, even if it means paying
double rent until her current lease ends in October. She was hoping
to find new office space by the end of June.
When that happens, Duffy is also planning on changing the way she
runs her business, in terms of handling information. She was
backing up her data before, but now plans to use remote storage, as
"When we do in fact move, I'm definitely having data stored at an
offsite location," she said. "I was doing data backup in the event
of a computer crash, not in the event that I'd never be able to get
back into my building again. (Offsite backup storage)
is expensive, but the alternative is worse."
She's also looking into scanning her paper files, though she's not
sure how feasible it will be for a small operation like hers. "I
just never thought of that before," she said. "I just never thought
Duffy also never thought a tornado would hit downtown Springfield.
Shortly before the storm hit, someone in her office mentioned the
"I kind of chuckled at her and said, 'Come on, this is
Springfield, Mass.' Tornadoes don't hit here." Then she hummed the
Wicked Witch theme from The Wizard of Oz to punctuate her
Her husband called with warnings, also. Eventually, she and her
mother, who was helping her with billing, got in their cars to
drive home. As they turned onto Columbus Avenue, she could see
debris swirling above the freeway. Her mother, who was a short
distance ahead of her, had made it ahead of the winds, but Duffy
decided she might be safer in her building's basement, and turned
"I said, 'Those clouds are kind of creepy, they're weaving in and
out of each other.'"
When she got back to State Street, she had trouble opening her car
door because of the intense wind pressure, and she bruised her
shoulder getting out. She managed to get into the basement along
with other tenants and a few other people, and waited out the
After it was over, the most serious injuries were cuts and
scratches from the flying debris. She drove several people home
who'd been stranded. Cars were crushed by debris and had shattered
windows. One officemate's driver-side window had been smashed by
debris still lying on the seat, which she said would have impaled
him had he been in his car at the time.
Even with a ruined office, dented car and bruised shoulder, Duffy
knew it could have been much worse.
"I was very fortunate," she said.