On Wednesday afternoon, June 1, 2011, the Storm Prediction Center had a Tornado Watch in effect for most areas in Southern New England. Tornado Warnings quickly ensued, but there was a delay in issuing the warning for the strongest tornado of the day. It touched down in Westfield at 4:17pm. Then, it headed east through the heavily populated Springfield metro area. Without warning. The first tornado warning came out at 4:30pm, which is 13 minutes after the estimated time of touchdown. Westfield, where the tornado touched down, is on the western fringe of NWS Taunton’s county warning area. NWS Albany controls Berkshire County, which is just to the west. With the Berkshire Mountains to the west and Taunton’s radar a far reaching distance to the east, the Doppler radar coverage wasn’t great. It wasn’t possible to see low level data, which is vital to estimating whether or not a tornado is on the ground. Once in view of KBOX (Taunton’s) radar, the warning was issued. Nonetheless, with thousands in it’s path, less than a handfull perished in this nasty twister.
Perhaps one of the most memorial video clips from this tornado is that of WSHM’s Memorial Bridge/Connecticut River aerial view. It can be argued that the video saved lives. When people see an actual live video of the tornado occurring, it puts a greater emphasis on the need to take cover.
The National Weather Service has confirmed that three tornadoes touched down in Massachusetts on June 1st: an EF3 and two EF1 tornados.
The radar below clearly shows the tornado. The supercell located west of Southbridge had both a hook echo and a debris ball. A hook echo is generally a good sign of a potential tornado, while a debris ball is much better. Radar beams reflect off of rain drops and send a signal back to the radar dish. The more it reflects, the brighter the colors you will see. When there is a tornado on the ground, large debris start getting picked up and begin rotating in the tornado, in the air. The debris is essentially lifted high enough above the ground and into the line of sight of the radar beam. Now, the beam not only reflects off of rain drops, but shingles, couches, and chairs (or whatever else is flying in the air). Hence, bright colors show up in the form of a circle. The bright purple circle, west of Southbridge, is where the EF3 tornado was on the ground at 5:05pm June 1st.
On June 5th, I surveyed the heavily damaged towns of Brimfield and Monson, MA. The path of the tornado was very clear. Houses were flattened in some areas. The tornado tore through downtown Monson and continued east towards Brimfield. The popular Brimfield Antiques Grounds were spared, but the path of the twister can be seen on the nearby hillside. The path will be etched in the forest for decades to come, as most of the trees were snapped off near their bases.
Along Interstate 84 near the Sturbridge exit, the tornado ripped across the highway. Signs were toppled. Drivers can look left and right while traveling the road and see the tornado path.
Below is a video report from the tornado ravaged area.
Here is the National Weather Service tornado report for the long track EF3.
...EF3 TORNADO CONFIRMED FROM WESTFIELD TO CHARLTON... LOCATION...WESTFIELD TO CHARLTON IN HAMPDEN AND WORCESTER COUNTIES DATE...JUNE 1 2011 ESTIMATED TIME...417 PM TO 527 PM EDT MAXIMUM EF-SCALE RATING...EF3 ESTIMATED MAXIMUM WIND SPEED...160 MPH MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH...ONE HALF MILE PATH LENGTH...39.0 MILES BEGINNING LAT/LON...42.10N / 72.75W ENDING LAT/LON...42.10N / 71.99W * FATALITIES...4 * INJURIES...200 * THE INFORMATION IN THIS STATEMENT IS PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE PENDING FINAL REVIEW OF THE EVENT(S) AND PUBLICATION IN NWS STORM DATA. ...SUMMARY... THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN TAUNTON MASSACHUSETTS HAS CONFIRMED AN EF3 TORNADO FROM WESTFIELD TO CHARLTON MASSACHUSETTS ON JUNE 1 2011. A SUPERCELL THUNDERSTORM DEVELOPED OVER WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. THIS STORM STRENGTHENED AND PRODUCED A LONG- LIVED...VERY SIGNIFICANT TORNADO...THAT DID EXTENSIVE DAMAGE ACROSS SOUTHWEST AND SOUTH-CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS. THIS STORM WILL BE NOTED NOT ONLY FOR ITS INTENSITY...BUT ALSO FOR THE LENGTH OF THE CONTINUOUS DAMAGE PATH...APPROXIMATELY 39 MILES. THE TORNADO WAS ALSO VERY WIDE AT SOME POINTS...REACHING A MAXIMUM WIDTH OF ONE-HALF MILE. THE TORNADO FIRST TOUCHED DOWN IN THE MUNGER HILL SECTION OF WESTFIELD WITH DAMAGE MAINLY LIMITED TO TREES...MANY UPROOTED AND SNAPPED. THE ROOF OF MUNGER HILL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WAS ALSO DAMAGED. THE TORNADO RAPIDLY INTENSIFIED AS IT MOVED INTO WEST SPRINGFIELD. THE TORNADO CAUSED EXTENSIVE DAMAGE TO INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS AND HOMES. SEVERAL BUILDINGS HAD THEIR ROOFS REMOVED BY THE TORNADO...A FEW STRUCTURES COLLAPSED...AND SEVERAL MULTI- STORY BUILDINGS LOST THEIR UPPER STORIES. THE TORNADO THEN CROSSED THE CONNECTICUT RIVER AT THE MEMORIAL AVENUE BRIDGE AND INTO THE CITY OF SPRINGFIELD. HERE THE TORNADO PRODUCED EXTENSIVE DAMAGE TO THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE DOWNTOWN AREA WITH MANY HOMES DESTROYED. IN ADDITION COMMERCIAL BRICK BUILDINGS SUSTAINED MAJOR DAMAGE. ROOFS WERE REMOVED FROM MANY OF THESE LARGE COMMERCIAL STRUCTURES. THE TORNADO ALSO PRODUCED SEVERE STRUCTURAL DAMAGE TO TOWN HOMES AND APARTMENTS NEAR SPRINGFIELD COLLEGE. THE TORNADO CONTINUED MOVING EAST INTO THE ISLAND POND SECTION OF SPRINGFIELD...WHERE CATHEDRAL HIGH SCHOOL SUSTAINED SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE...AND MANY HOMES IN THIS PART THE CITY WERE COMPLETELY DESTROYED. THE TORNADO CONTINUED TO MOVE EAST THROUGH WILBRAHAM NEAR THE WILBRAHAM-HAMPDEN TOWN LINE PRODUCING NEARLY COMPLETE DEFORESTATION AND SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO NEARBY STRUCTURES. THE TORNADO THEN CONTINUED DIRECTLY THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE TOWN OF MONSON. IN MONSON WIDESPREAD DAMAGE OCCURRED TO COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS...WITH MANY HOMES COMPLETELY DESTROYED. THE ROOF OF MONSON HIGH SCHOOL WAS DESTROYED. FORESTED PARTS OF TOWN EXPERIENCED NEARLY COMPLETE DEFORESTATION AND IN SOME LOCATIONS TREE BARK WAS STRIPPED FROM REMAINING TRUNKS. THE TORNADO MOVED ACROSS THE BRIMFIELD STATE FOREST WHERE IT REACHED IT MAXIMUM WIDTH OF APPROXIMATELY ONE-HALF MILE. ADDITIONAL SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE OCCURRED BOTH TO STRUCTURES AND FORESTED AREAS FOR MANY MILES BEFORE THE TORNADO REACHED THE SOUTHBRIDGE AIRPORT. HERE NUMEROUS AIRCRAFT WERE LIFTED OFF THE GROUND AND INTO THE WOODS EAST OF THE AIRPORT. THE TORNADO THEN MOVED EAST BEFORE LIFTING IN THE SOUTHWEST PART OF CHARLTON.