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Healey tours storm damage in Western Mass.: ‘Some have experienced real, true devastation’

Flooded tennis courts at the Oxbow Marina on the Connecticut River in Northampton in the aftermath of flooding in Western Massachusetts.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Governor Maura Healey toured storm damage in Western Massachusetts on Wednesday and vowed her administration will do everything possible to help residents dealing with property damage and farmers who have lost their livelihood in the floods.

“Know that we will continue to do whatever we can to assist our residents and our communities,” Healey said during a briefing Wednesday in Williamsburg, about 27 miles north of Springfield.

On Monday, the National Weather Service reported that Ashfield Road in Williamsburg had flooded, with water reaching the windows of homes. Forecasters also reported that a section of Route 9 in town had closed because of significant street flooding, while a bridge on North Street was also closed.

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Healey, who took a helicopter to the region, said the aerial view of the damage was sobering.

“When you look at the Connecticut [River] for example, and just how brown it is, I mean you see the sediment and you can see what’s happened in terms of erosion and what that has done,” Healey said. “You can see the flooding.”

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey during her visit to Williamsburg.Don Treeger/The Republican

As of Tuesday night, the Connecticut River had flooded a one-mile stretch of Route 5 between Northampton and Easthampton, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Among the farms badly damaged by the flooding was Stone Soup Farm, a cooperative farm in Hadley.

“Yesterday most of our farmland flooded heavily because of a rapid rise of the Connecticut River, and it is still under several feet of water,” the farm said in an e-mail message Wednesday that was obtained by the Globe. “Our entire farm is about 10 acres of crops each year, and about 8 of those acres are now under water and will be a total loss.”

Some areas of the farm were only accessible by boat, the e-mail said. A request for further comment was sent to the farm Wednesday afternoon.

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Back in Williamsburg on Wednesday, Healey said waters have “receded” but are “still very high.” Seeing the damage underscored the plight of many farmers whose crops were destroyed by the heavy rains, she said.

“To be able to see fields still covered, people are suffering and will suffer total wipeouts this year,” she said. “We’ve got to find a way to help.”

Asked for specifics on plans to help, Healey said the assistance will take a variety of forms.

“In the first instance, it’s figuring out what resources are needed,” Healey said. “How can the state assist and plug in with that? It now moves to a different phase in some respects, in terms of mitigation.”

She said the funding could come from multiple sources.

“Obviously, there are certain state formulas, certain federal formulas,” Healey said. “That’s all stuff that we’ve got to work through. But the point is, this is all about teamwork.”

Pressed on funding, Healey said that “we’ve got to have some conversations about what exists right now, and what exists in terms of the funding formulas.” She said she hadn’t spoken directly with the White House about the storm damage. The Biden administration has approved an emergency declaration in Vermont, making federal disaster assistance available.

Healey voiced concern for Vermont, where flooding damage will likely be worse than in 2011 during Tropical Storm Irene.

“Obviously, the situation in Vermont is catastrophic,” Healey said. “Our hearts go out to the people of Vermont right now. We’ve said we’re ready to assist and provide help there. I know they are getting much-needed federal help.”

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A person looked out their window as floodwaters surrounded their apartment in downtown Montpelier, Vt., on Tuesday.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Asked if a request for federal aid for Massachusetts was possible, Healey said she wasn’t ruling anything out.

“We continue to have discussions with our local officials and also MEMA [the state’s emergency management agency] about what needs to happen here,” Healey said.

Healey was also asked what she would tell residents whose property was damaged by flooding.

“That I am so sorry,” Healey said. “I am so sorry for the problems, the pain that people are experiencing. And some have experienced real, true devastation in terms of loss of crops, loss of livelihood, potential loss of jobs with all of that, as we’re going to have to rebuild and recover.”

During a later briefing near the Vermont border in North Adams, which also saw significant flooding, Healey appeared with Mayor Jennifer A. Macksey, who detailed some of the damage her city sustained Monday, including flooding on State Street.

“State Street is a main corridor in and out of the city,” Macksey said. “The crews worked around the clock to get one lane open at least. Now we do have both lanes open and we’re hoping this afternoon to temporarily repair them.”

All told, about 15 to 20 streets were hit hard.

“Our back-of-the-envelope [damage] estimate ... is about $2 million,” Macksey said. “We are still discovering areas and culverts that have failed us.”

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Healey said Massachusetts will see “more and more severe weather” incidents because of climate change.

“There’s a reason why I appointed a climate chief to sit atop everything that we do,” Healey said. “I think a focus on resilience, sustainability, making the kinds of investments that we need to make in infrastructure, is super important. We’ve got to deal with the immediate, the now. How do we help our families? How do we help our residents, our communities with the immediate need? And also, how do we plan for what we need to plan for?”

Flooded cornfields along Island Road in Northampton in the aftermath of flooding in Western Massachusetts. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Samantha Gross of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.