Masters of disaster

Depending on Uncle Sam’s largess and the kindness of strangers are just two of the life-altering changes facing communities hit by a major natural disaster. The Christian Science Monitor profiles the town of Parkersburg, Iowa, and finds “a model for tornado recovery” for places like Monson and the 19 other Massachusetts communities that tornadoes savaged two weeks ago.

Parkersburg made several decisions that helped the community get back on its feet quickly after being leveled by a mammoth EF-5 tornado, packing winds of more than 200 miles per hour, in 2008. Town officials decided to rebuild the high school right away. The high school served as an important community focal point because of the town’s pride in the school football team.

Parkersburg designated a volunteer point-person who basically worked full-time hours coordinating all the people who wanted to pitch in. FEMA aid was instrumental. The federal government paid for 90 percent of the $6.6 million clean-up costs for the town of nearly 2000 people. The fact that most residents and business also had insurance to help pay for reconstruction costs also sped recovery.  

Federal assistance, schools, and volunteers are also focal points in the Bay State. Gov. Deval Patrick has made a formal request for federal disaster assistance. (FEMA officials in Boston are warning that Washington might take some time to decide where they stand on sending in the cavalry. The feds took almost three weeks before Joplin, Missouri, the site of this spring’s most devastating tornado, got a declaration.)

Residents in the affected areas have already filed $90 million in insurance claims. Springfield is moving to make sure that homeowners actually use those funds to repair or tear down their properties.

The Archdiocese of Springfield is looking for a temporary location for Springfield’s Cathedral High School. The building sustained so much damage that it closed for the year and won’t be opening in the fall. With church officials considering a location outside Springfield, neighborhood residents worry about what might happen to one of the city’s “most stable neighborhoods” if the school moves elsewhere.

Numerous groups are coordinating volunteers and dropping off supplies. The Springfield Republican spotlights the Salvation Army effort: their volunteers showed up two hours after the tornadoes struck.

Communities can take anywhere from 5 to 10 years to return to normal after a major disaster, according Jack Rozdilsky, a Western Illinois University professor interviewed by the Monitor.   “What stands out in Parkersburg and what you can take away from them is the extent to which the recovery was very rapid,” he said. “They found a way to draw on their internal strength for the town’s recovery.”

Laura Sauriol, creator of the Monson Tornado Watch 2011 Facebook page, echoes that conclusion. “We are a strong community and I know we can get through this,” says the 17-year-old who set up the page during the storm. It’s now being used to help organize recovery efforts.

                                                                                                                                                           –GABRIELLE GURLEY


A Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report says the Senate version of a municipal health care reform bill contains language that would negate much of the savings being sought, CommonWealth reports. Newspaper editorials seem to favor the House approach. Here’s one from the Eagle-Tribune.

The Cape Cod Times looks at the stakes for the Mashpee Wampanoag as the debate over casino legislation heats up.

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker offers 10 thoughts on campaigning.

The Patriot Ledger talks to p.r. poohbahs about Braintree state Rep. Mark Cusack’s radio silence after being caught in an empty House chamber with the female staffer of a colleague. Many Braintree officials defended the freshman lawmaker as making an innocent mistake while Keller@Large offers this is not the first State House romance, although he doesn’t go all Inside Track on us by naming names. Cusack, who has not been in his office since news broke about the late night liaison, issued his “final,” which also happened to be his first, statement on the matter yesterday.

Former House speaker Sal DiMasi finds comfort in a government salad bar.

Joe DeNucci now thinks Guy Glodis wasn’t so bad after all.

Berkshire County should remain in a single congressional district says The Berkshire Eagle.


Top Patrick budget aide Jay Gonzalez tells the Lowell Sun he is “very satisfied” with Lawrence’s fiscal picture. Meanwhile, the Eagle-Tribune reports that the ex-chief of staff to Mayor William Lantigua appeared before a federal grand jury and his lawyer refused to say whether he was a witness or target of the investigation. Also seen at the courthouse were the former head of the Department of Public Works and a towing company owner.

Marblehead voters approve a override paving the way for a new scaled-back elementary school and a cap on a landfill, the Salem News reports.

A Boston police officer is recovering after being shot responding to a domestic disturbance call.  

Somehow, Framingham hasn’t spent $4.5 million in federal money for downtown improvements it received more than a decade ago. Now that the feds want the money back, city officials are trying to figure out how make progress on some projects. Fast.

Smokers are falling on more hard times in Provincetown.


The National Review picks up on presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty’s call to privatize the US Postal Service and says it can and should be done, even though it concedes it wouldn’t really affect the budget or deficit one way or another.

A California bankruptcy judge cranks up the pressure on the Defense of Marriage Act.

House Democrats won’t punish Anthony Weiner, but still hope he’ll slink out of the Capitol on his own.


The Weekly Standard wonders what Mitt Romney meant when he said American troops should not fight someone else’s war of independence, an apparent contrast with his previous positions. But the Globe says Romney is trying a new campaign approach this time: sticking with a position once he’s stated it. Following this week’s debate, Romney looks even more like the clear GOP frontrunner, but The New Republic reports that right-wing Republicans are gearing up for an all-out effort to deny him the nomination.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza points out just how much the current GOP field parts company with George W. Bush, whether it’s the lack of any strong statements about terrorism not being part of the true practice of Islam, which favors peace, or the repudiation by Republican candidates at Monday’s debate of the Bush administration’s TARP program and other moves to head of an economic implosion.

Just look what happens when Michele Bachmann knows which camera to speak into!


WBUR’s Sacha Pfeiffer interviews Harris Freeman, an associate professor at Western New England University School of Law in Springfield, about his report on the state’s failure to protect low-wage workers.


A new president for Amherst College.

Pittsfield city councillors criticize the city’s teachers and The Berkshire Eagle backs them up.


Massachusetts health care spending outpaces the nation, new state report finds.


Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, who made clean energy a focus of her administration in trying to remake her state’s economy, tells Emily Rooney even though she’s out of office, she will continue to keep the energy debate alive.

Fall River officials have reached an agreement with the energy company Ameresco Inc. to install solar panels at three city schools and the wastewater treatment plant.

More trouble in Bourne over a proposed wind development.

The Cape Cod Times talks to a nuclear expert about the risks associated with the Pilgrim nuclear power plant.


Radio Boston hosts a discussion on the recruiting practices of for-profit colleges and the high default rates of their students.


Paul Levy is beating the “information wants to be free” drum.


A Monson man managed to find all seven of his cats and his old, blind goldfish alive after the tornado blasted through his home.