The eyes of the nation have been fixed on the Southeast following the devastating tornado outbreak that has already claimed at least 340 lives. That makes this week’s outbreak the deadliest since 1925 when 747 died in a Mid-West tornado outbreak.
So far, a tornado that struck Mississippi has been rated an EF5, with the tornado near Tuscaloosa being rated an EF4 (preliminarily). The destruction that those types of twisters can cause in a matter of seconds is astonishing. Storms of that magnitude are not common anywhere, especially not here in New England. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that they can happen in Massachusetts. In fact, they already have.
The strongest tornado to ever hit New England struck Worcester County on June 9, 1953. The afternoon twister, which is now known as the Worcester Tornado, first touched down during the afternoon hours in Petersham. For the next 46 miles (and 84 minutes) the storm trekked across the county, killing scores of people and destroying hundreds of buildings.
Entire neighborhoods and businesses were leveled, as was Assumption College. Winds were estimated to be 250 MPH in the storm, earning it a ranking of F4. This ranking is occasionally challenged, with some arguing it was really an F5.
Regardless of the ranking, 94 people died in that one tornado, with another 1,288 injured. That makes it the 19th deadliest single tornado ever recorded in the United States. Furthermore, no single tornado since the Worcester Tornado has killed as many people. This may change pending the final numbers out of Alabama.
Debris from the storm fell as far away as the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton. The debris fell for 30 minutes, starting with twigs and ending with insulation and parts of roofs.
As we head into severe weather season, it’s important to remain cognizant of the threat that storms pose, and make sure you have a plan in place should a strong storm hit your area.