REVERE — The ferocious storm that ripped through the heart of this city made history by being the first tornado to ravage Suffolk County in at least six decades. But the damage it left behind might not be enough to qualify for federal disaster aid, officials cautioned Tuesday.
Fire Chief Gene Doherty said securing help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be “very difficult” because the damage was confined to a narrow path from the Chelsea line to Brown Circle. He said qualifying for aid takes into account how much damage was done across the county, which in this case includes Boston, where there was no destruction.
“We’re going to be sending out assessment teams . . . and trying to get as much as we can,” Doherty told media and officials gathered at Revere City Hall.
Terrel Harris, a spokesman for Governor Deval Patrick’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said initial damage assessments are not expected to exceed $9.1 million, the threshold set by the federal government for qualifying for its assistance program.
The tornado lashed parts of Broadway on Monday, leaving 13 buildings uninhabitable, downing trees, and resulting in minor injuries for nine people, officials said. So far, about 65 buildings have been deemed to have substantial damage, and that number is expected to climb above 100, Doherty said. He estimated the tornado left at least 28 people homeless.
Doherty pegged damage to city-owned buildings at $1.5 million to $2 million, not including repairs to Revere High School, where the tornado damaged side panels, sidewalks, fencing, and air handlers on the roof, Revere Public Schools Superintendent Paul Dakin said.
“Some of the side walls have blown right out,” Dakin said. “Wind went into the high school, pressurized the building, and offices were sort of turned upside around.”
Officials are assessing damage to determine the help that might be available, including low-interest loans from the US Small Business Administration, said Travis Hengen, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Another form of federal aid, the Individual Assistance Program, also probably wouldn’t apply because it is reserved for disasters in which at least 100 homes are destroyed or have major damage, Harris said.
Mayor Daniel Rizzo said he was astounded residents had escaped serious harm during what meteorologists have identified as a tornado in the EF-2 category, which can generate winds of 100 to 120 miles per hour.
“It’s really a miracle,” Rizzo added.
Officials said that during the storm, an 86-year-old woman suffered a head laceration and, at the other end of the age spectrum, a 2-week-old baby was slightly injured. In the second incident, officials said, the girl was riding in a rear-facing child seat in a pickup truck when a board slammed through the rear windshield.
The truck, with both parents inside, was traveling on Mountain Avenue. Emergency workers helped the frantic parents clear shards of glass off the infant by dousing her with water. All three went to a hospital, Doherty said.
The 86-year-old woman was standing near Dunkin’ Donuts on Broadway when she suffered the laceration, officials said.
Margarita and Stalin Landeta drove to City Hall with the camera they used to photograph downed trees in their backyard on Central Avenue
Their son, David, said their home insurance company offered $1,000 to defray the cost, but they still need help.
The city “cleared all the streets. They got the electricity back, but now . . . I think they need to evaluate everyone’s tree situation,” David Landeta said. “Some people can’t afford it. Obviously, like us.”
The two-family home where Mary and Bob Carrabes live on Revere Beach Parkway was deemed uninhabitable after the tornado tore off the roof and destroyed rear porches.
The couple said they’re waiting to learn what it will take to rebuild the home before deciding whether to stay.
“It has a lot of sentimental value, forget the dollar amounts,” said Bob Carrabes, who was born there. “I’m not sure what I want to do, to be quite honest.”
An information center is scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the American Legion Hall on Broadway so that residents and business owners can meet with representatives from the city, insurance companies, American Red Cross, and the state emergency office.
“We can deal with the biggest snowstorms, but when it comes to a tornado, this was brand new territory for all of us,” Rizzo said.
Harry Darian, who owns Biker’s Outfitter in Brown Circle, estimated his business sustained $30,000 to $40,000 in damage.
“Another day in the life of Revere, I guess . . . No big deal,” Darian said. “You can’t sit back and cry about it.”