A TORNADO TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT – by Meteorologist Jeb Postle

worcester tornado 1953

courtesy of  www.nesec.org

Thank you Meteorologist Jeb Postle for this submission

With the news of a weak EF0 tornado traveling 2 miles through parts of Worcester last Sunday Evening, it brought some apprehension to the residents of Grafton and Upton with a tornado warning being issued.  I thought it would be good time to briefly discuss tornado awareness and the history of these natural phenomena across our area.

Tornado Awareness

To this date, the formation of tornadoes is not fully understood. There are many ideas and theories as to how they might form, allowing us to better predict a timeframe of when they may occur.

When a tornado watch is issued, it indicates the atmosphere is auspicious for tornado formation in thunderstorms. When a watch is issued, it’s advised to be vigilant of your surroundings when seeing or hearing thunderstorms in your area.

When a tornado warning is issued, it indicates a tornado hook echo is spotted on Doppler radar or a weather spotter/observer has spotted the tornado on the ground. When a warning is present, it’s recommended to do the following:

1). Listen to the latest forecast or message from emergency personal regarding the storm.

2). Go to the basement or an interior room of your house/building.

3). If possible, cover yourself with a mattress or blanket

4). Recommended to wear sturdy shoes

5). Don’t open windows

6). If living in a mobile home, it’s advised to abandon it.

7). If driving, don’t try to outrun the tornado. The best advice is to leave your vehicle and find a structural safe shelter.

8). If outside and not near a structural safe shelter, then find the closest culvert-cave or ditch and cover your head (Tornado 101).

Tornado strength is measured by the damage pattern of structures and things, resulting from destructive winds. A survey team from the National Weather Service goes out after the storm and surveys the damage. The scale used for measuring tornado strength is called the enhanced Fujita Scale (EF). The scale ranges from EF0, winds between 65-85mph to EF5, winds over 200 mph.

Tornado History

When people think of tornadoes, the first imagery is that they occur over the Great Plains of the United States. However, the Worcester, MA area has quiet a history of destructive tornadoes. The following are some examples of tornadoes that brought some destruction and havoc to the area.

Great Worcester Tornado June 9th, 1953

On June 9th, 1953, a tornado touched down near Petersham, MA. This storm would continue its destructive path through the towns of Rutland and Holden before reaching the northern parts of Worcester. The most substantial damage in Worcester occurred around the Assumption College part of the city. Afterward, the storm would continue through the towns of Shrewsbury, Westborough, and Southborough, before weakening in Framingham. At the height, the tornado reached a width of 1 mile. In the end, the storm killed 94 people, injured over 1,000 people, and caused over 350 million dollars in damage. This would rank the tornado as the most destructive in Massachusetts. The tornado has been debated to being classified as an EF4 or 5 (June 9th, 1953 Worcester, Massachusetts F4 Tornado).

June 9th  1953 Sutton-Mansfield Tornado

All that was known about this tornado was that it occurred on June 9th, 1953 on the same day as the Worcester tornado. At the time, the storm was classified as an EF3 tornado, causing damage and injuring 17 people along its path (Tornadoes in Worcester County, Massachusetts).

June 1st, 2011 Springfield-Monson Tornado

On June 1st, 2011 around 4:17 PM, a tornado touched down over Westfield, MA and would continue a destructive 39-mile path to Charlton via Springfield, Hampden, Wilbraham, Monson, Brimfield, and Sturbridge. This tornado at its height would have a width of around a half-mile wide. In the end, the tornado killed 3 people, Injured 72 people, and caused billions of dollars in damage. The storm was rated an EF3 tornado (Massachusetts Tornado Outbreak, June 1st, 2011).


It goes to show you that the Worcester area is prone to having tornadoes that can be destructive or weak. The best advice I have for you is to have an emergency plan in place for such events and to always watch/listen to weather forecast and emergency messages during inclement weather.


1). Tornadoes 101; NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association): September 2nd, 2014; http://www.noaa.gov/features/protecting/tornados101.html


2).  June 9th, 1953 Worcester, Massachusetts F4 Tornado; MyWARN: September 2nd, 2014; http://www.mywarn.com/?p=1924%29


3). Tornadoes in Worcester County, Massachusetts; Tornado History Project.com: September 2nd, 2014; http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/tornado/Massachusetts/Worcester/map


4). Massachusetts Tornado Outbreak, June 1st, 2011; National Weather Service Forecast Office Boston, MA: August 2nd, 2014; http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/sigevents/jun01_2011_summary.php












About Jennifer Doyle

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