Southbridge, Mass. Still Recovering From 2011 Tornado | NECN

Southbridge, Mass. Still Recovering From 2011 Tornado

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As the 1-year anniversary approaches, a handful of the 78 properties affected by the tornado remain under construction or uninhabitable (Published Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014)

    (NECN: Melissa Toupin) - Dan Butler put together a book full of pictures from last June’s tornado that ripped through his Southbridge, Mass. home.

    But one year later, Butler says he doesn't need photos to recall that day.

    “I remember every detail, the time, the smell...it smelled like Christmas trees,” he said.

    After a hard fought battle with his insurance company, Butler was able to rebuild.

    As the 1-year anniversary approaches, a handful of the 78 properties in Southbridge affected by the tornado remain under construction or uninhabitable.

    The town spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars cleaning up damaged areas but says it has to balance its books.

    “Seventeen thousand citizens, all tax payers, not all affected. So how do you allocate citizen tax dollars to personal properties? You have to be careful,” Southbridge Town Council Member Denise Clemence said.

    Town Manager Christopher Clark says progress has been made, but there is still work ahead.

    The municipal airport, where planes were tossed like toys, remains closed and many roads need costly repairs, work the town thought state money would help cover.

    “Sometimes the devil is in the details, only federal funded roads are eligible,” said Clark.

    He also says only of a quarter of the areas impacted qualify for the $150,000 they are expecting in reimbursements.

    In the meantime, tornado victims like Butler say the emotional, physical and financial impact of the last year has taken its toll.

    “People who didn't deal with it, it’s hard for them to understand, not just out here whining and asking for handouts, busting our butts, doing what we can,” said Butler. “It's overwhelming at times.”