Congressman Richard Neal, city officials tour damaged areas
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, toured through the region Tuesday to assess the damage with local officials in Northampton, Palmer and Southbridge.
Representatives from the city's Fire Department, Department of Public Works and David J. Narkewicz, acting mayor and City Council president, showed Neal some of the hardest-hit areas of the city during a quick bus tour. These include sections of Ward 2, including Crescent Street and Barrett Place, two streets that still don't have power. Other areas that suffered heavy damage were Pomeroy Terrace and Woodlawn Avenue.
In all, 42 streets were closed at one time or another from fallen trees and electrical wires, said Fire Chief Brian Duggan. Additionally, many of the trees planted in the last five years as part of a tree-planting program were lost and won't be replaced, officials said.
Gov. Deval Patrick has requested a federal disaster declaration from the White House in the wake of Saturday's nor'easter, which blanketed parts of the state with up to 30 inches of snow and left an estimated 671,000 people without power at the height of the storm.
Neal said he is calling for a similar declaration at the federal level. Such a designation could mean funding relief for the cities and towns in his district.
"I'm certainly pushing very hard for it," Neal said during a tour in Northampton.
Neal and the other 11 members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have signed a letter to President Obama in support of Patrick's request. The request seeks federal assistance for eight counties, including Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden.
At least five people have died and power is out in more than 200 cities and towns throughout the state.
"The magnitude, scope and severity of the storm ... are beyond the response capabilities of the Commonwealth and affected local governments," the letter states.
The storm is the latest in a string of natural disasters that have ripped through western Massachusetts, including Hurricane Irene in late August and a destructive tornado in early June. Since the beginning of this year, three federal disasters have been declared in the state.