Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
SPRINGFIELD As Governor Deval Patrick announced yesterday that a UK-based company was adding up to 25 jobs in Massachusetts, the sunshine streaming into the State House Great Hall from the skylights above faded to black.
The governor finished his remarks, answered a couple questions from reporters in the hallway outside, and then headed off to an evening engagement.
In the elevator, he ran into another reporter who had not been at the event. He asked Patrick what he thought of the reported tornado out west, catching Patrick flat-footed.
It was then that he learned of the storms he would later declare had spawned at least two tornadoes and killed at least four people in Massachusetts.
Within three hours, Patrick was at the podium in the State House briefing room, giving the first official account of what had happened. Patrick, who has a vacation home in western Massachusetts, was joined by Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, who lives in central Massachusetts.
“We have an emergency on our hands, and so I have declared a state of emergency across the entire commonwealth," the governor said.
“If anyone is in an area where there is an active tornado warning, first and foremost, pay attention to that," the governor implored his listeners. "If you have a basement get in it. If you don’t have a basement, get to to the lowest level in your home or apartment a bathroom is ideal, at the lowest level, because it tends to be the stronger of the rooms in a house.”
He asked school superintendents in the 19 affected communities to cancel classes on Thursday. He urged motorists to stay off the road. And then he said he was headed to the state's emergency command post in Framingham for a further update.
Little more than an hour later, Patrick had assembled a cross-section of his Cabinet and the state's emergency response team. Again, Murray was at his side.
Checking his BlackBerry both as he walked to the podium and then while he briefed reporters both in the room and listening via conference call, the governor doubled the fatality count to four.
He affirmed that up to 1,000 members of the National Guard were being deployed for an array of purposes. He also told state workers in the affected areas to stay home from work Thursday.
For all his firmness and empathy, Patrick was a bit defensive when asked whether the state had been caught off-guard by the storm.
He recalled the mayor of Springfield, Domenic Sarno, who heads the state's third-largest city, telling him he had only 10-minutes of warning.
"It's Mother Nature," the governor said, before quickly shifting to further details of his administration's response.
After the news conference, Murray downed a piece of pizza while Patrick conferred with aides.
Then they hopped in their official caravan and sped west on the Turnpike, blue emergency lights flashing, enroute to Springfield for a first-hand look at some of the damage.
Just outside Charlton, they passed a conga line of power repair trucks, yellow lights blinking in the dark night, already on their way to repair the damage.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.