2011 New England tornado outbreak

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June 1, 2011 tornado outbreak
Springfield, MA Tornado 2011, June 1.jpg
The EF3 tornado that struck Springfield, Massachusetts
Date(s) June 1, 2011
Duration 3:35 pm – 6:57 pm EDT (3 hours and 22 minutes)
Tornadoes caused 6 confirmed
Maximum rated tornado EF3 (Enhanced Fujita Scale)
Damages $140 million (2011 US$)[1]
Casualties 3[2]

The 2011 New England tornado outbreak occurred on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, in Massachusetts' Connecticut River Valley and also in southern Maine, devastating sections of the large city of Springfield, Massachusetts and its surrounding region. Although the vast majority of damage occurred in the Connecticut River Valley, the tornado outbreak spawned 6 tornadoes across New England, affecting both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of Maine.

By 9:47 pm EDT, the violent storms—which included seven reported tornadoes—had killed three people, injured 300 people in Springfield alone, and left over 500 people homeless in Springfield's MassMutual Center arena.[3][4][5] More than 48,000 electricity customers lost power.[5] Because of the severe weather and resulting damage, Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts, and on June 14, 2011, President Barack Obama declared Springfield and the surrounding region a United States Federal disaster area.[6] Governor Patrick also activated 1,000 National Guard troops for rescue and recovery efforts.

Meteorological synopsis[edit]

On May 30, two days before the outbreak, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) noted the possibility of a severe weather event in the Northeastern United States in their outlook. A storm system was forecast to draw warm, moist air (with dew points over 60 °F (16 °C)) from the south, ahead of a driving cold front. In light of this, the SPC issued a slight risk for severe thunderstorms the area.[7] As an upper-level trough moved over the Great Lakes, further moisture and warmth increased atmospheric instability in the area, raising the threat of a squall line or supercell thunderstorms.[8] By June 1, the storm system moved over Ontario and Quebec, with a cold front trailing behind it over northern New England. CAPE values exceeded 4,000 J/kg, indicating an extreme amount of instability in the atmosphere, conducive to strong thunderstorms. Additionally, a strong upper-level jet stream brought significant wind shear, which, in combination with the atmospheric instability, indicated a significant severe weather threat, with the main effects expected to result from downburst winds and large hail, but with tornadoes possible.[9]

Reflectivity radar loop of the supercell thunderstorm that produced the EF3 Springfield tornado

Between 8:18 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. (EDT), severe storms producing 1 in (2.5 cm) hail developed over portions of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine; however, little if any impact resulted from these storms.[10] At 10:05 a.m., the SPC issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the entire state of Vermont, much of northern New York, northeastern Pennsylvania and parts of western Massachusetts and Connecticut.[11] By this time, a broken line of severe storms had developed over parts of western New York and northern Pennsylvania.[12] With the storms gradually developing throughout the day and an increasing threat of tornadoes, a tornado watch was issued at 1:00 p.m. for much of New England, southern New York, eastern Pennsylvania and most of New Jersey.[13] Around 2:00 p.m., severe storms with damaging hail, measured up to 2.75 in (7.0 cm), and winds around 60 mph (97 km/h) developed in eastern New York. These storms gradually tracked east-southeastward into Vermont and later New Hampshire. One particular supercell produced very large 3.25-inch (8.3 cm) diameter hail at Shaftsbury, Vermont after producing a funnel cloud and baseball sized hail across the border in New York State.[10] At 2:43 p.m., the first of several tornado warnings in the area was issued for southern Coos County, New Hampshire.[14]

Between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m., severe storms developed over western Massachusetts and prompted a tornado warning to be issued at 3:28 p.m. for parts of Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin Counties.[15] About an hour later, another warning was issued for Springfield, Massachusetts and surrounding areas. Within minutes, a touchdown was confirmed near Springfield by local law enforcement and amateur radio operators.[16] This tornado was later rated a strong EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.[17] Over the next hour, damage was reported as far east as Southbridge from this long track tornado. Other brief touchdowns were reported across the state afterward as well, which caused minor damage.

In total, West Springfield, Westfield, Springfield, Monson, Hampden, Wilbraham, Brimfield, Sturbridge,and Southbridge, Massachusetts all sustained damage from the long track EF3 tornado . A total of three (downgraded from the originally reported 4) people were killed as a result of the tornado and at least 200 people were injured from severe weather across the state.[18][19] The outbreak included the first killer tornado in Massachusetts since the 1995 Great Barrington tornado.[20]

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
EF0 EF1 EF2 EF3 EF4 EF5 Total
2 3 0 1 0 0 6
List of reported tornadoes – Wednesday, June 1, 2011
EF#
Location
County
Coord.
Time(EDT)
Path length
Comments/Damage
Maine
EF1 NW of Bethel Oxford 44°24′14″N 70°40′54″W / 44.40383°N 70.68166°W / 44.40383; -70.68166 (Bethel (Jun. 1, EF1)) 3:35 p.m. – 3:36 p.m. 0.25 miles (0.40 km) Brief tornado touched down to the northwest of Bethel, snapping or uprooting numerous trees. Tree limbs were thrown up to 0.5 mi (0.80 km) away.[21][22]
EF1 Embden area Somerset 44°54′31″N 70°01′38″W / 44.9087°N 70.0273°W / 44.9087; -70.0273 (Embden (Jun. 1, EF1)) 5:51 p.m. – 6:06 p.m. 8.4 miles (13.5 km) Tornado touched down in a rural area of Somerset County. Damage was confined to trees along the entire path. Winds were estimated at 90 to 100 mph (140 to 160 km/h).[23][24]
Massachusetts
EF3 Westfield area to SW Charlton Hampden, Worcester 42°06′N 72°45′W / 42.100°N 72.750°W / 42.100; -72.750 (Westfield (Jun. 1, EF3)) 4:17 p.m. – 5:27 p.m. 37 miles (60 km) 3 deaths – See section on the Greater Springfield tornado
EF1 NW Wilbraham Hampden 42°08′N 72°28′W / 42.133°N 72.467°W / 42.133; -72.467 (Wilbraham (Jun. 1, EF1)) 6:32 p.m. – 6:40 p.m. 4.16 miles (6.69 km) Numerous trees were downed and large limbs were snapped off some trees. Numerous trees were uprooted, some of which fell onto homes and across roads.[25]
EF0 N of North Brimfield Hampden 42°08′N 72°13′W / 42.133°N 72.217°W / 42.133; -72.217 (Brimfield (Jun. 1, EF0)) 6:54 p.m. – 6:57 p.m. 1.69 miles (2.72 km) Several trees were downed, some of which were uprooted, and large limbs were snapped off some trees. Post-event analysis indicated that the tornado was weaker than initially thought.[26]
EF0 NE of Fiskdale Worcester 42°09′N 72°04′W / 42.150°N 72.067°W / 42.150; -72.067 (Fiskdale (Jun. 1, EF0)) 7:10 p.m. – 7:13 p.m. 1.42 miles (2.29 km) Damage mostly limited to trees; however, one fell on and damaged a home.[27]

The Greater Springfield tornado[edit]

A satellite view of the tornado's path. The track can be seen as a brown streak across the center of the image; part of the track, including Springfield, is obscured by clouds.

On June 1, 2011, a strong, large, and long-lived tornado left a swath of devastation through Hampden County into Worcester County in Western Massachusetts. The tornado proved to be unusually persistent, remaining on the ground for one hour and ten minutes along a path 39 mi (63 km) long, the second longest on record in Massachusetts.[28] The damage path reached a width of 0.5 miles (0.80 km).[28] The city of Springfield was devastated by the June 1, 2011 tornado, as was the southern portion of the Springfield Metropolitan Area – from Westfield to Charlton. Massachusetts has experienced only eight EF3 or higher tornadoes since reliable records began to be kept in 1950, and this was the first on record in Hampden County.[29] Overall, the tornado killed three people, injured about 200 others, and left hundreds homeless.[30] In Springfield alone, approximately 500 buildings were destroyed.[31] Hundreds of other homes were destroyed in surrounding towns, including West Springfield (88 structures) and Monson (77 structures), among others.[32][33] Damage estimates from the storm, to date, exceed $140 million, the majority of which was from the destruction of homes and businesses.[1] Based on a post-storm survey by the National Weather Service office in Boston, the tornado attained maximum estimated winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) as it moved into Springfield, ranking it as a high-end EF3.[28]

Around 4:13 p.m., a strong thunderstorm developed over western Hampden County and gradually developed as it tracked eastward at 35 mph (56 km/h). This storm prompted a severe thunderstorm warning for portions of Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester Counties in Massachusetts as well as Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties in Connecticut. At the time, Doppler weather radar indicated weak rotation within the storm, a sign of a possible tornado and around[34] 4:17 p.m., a tornado touched down in the Munger Hill section of Westfield, Massachusetts.[28] The previous severe thunderstorm warning was then superseded by a tornado warning at 4:18 p.m. following stronger rotation apparent on radar.[16] Within Westfield, damage was mainly confined to trees but a local school did sustain roof damage. Once the tornado moved out of the City of Westfield and into the City of West Springfield, it rapidly intensified, causing extensive damage to industrial buildings, removing roofs and the upper floors of three-story apartment complexes. Additionally, a few homes collapsed due to the severity of structural damage.[28] Throughout West Springfield, 88 buildings were destroyed and two people were killed.[33] One woman was killed after her home collapsed on top of her while she was protecting her daughter.[35] Another fatality took place when a 5 ft (1.5 m) wide oak tree fell on a vehicle, killing the driver.[36]

Homes suffering varying degrees of damage

The storm then crossed the Connecticut River and moved into Metro Center, the most urban area of the densely populated City of Springfield,[28] destroying over 500 homes and buildings.[31] The tornado caused extensive damage to Springfield's Connecticut River Walk Park, deforesting much of the park's formerly lush tree canopy and removing large sections of its wrought-iron fences.[37] 200 year-old Heritage Trees in Court Square were uprooted and commercial brick buildings in Springfield's historic South End sustained extensive damage – large portions of their roofs were removed and numerous, ornate brick facades were completely destroyed.[38] Severe structural damage to apartments and townhouses took place near famous Mulberry Street and due east on the campus of Springfield College. In the wealthy East Forest Park neighborhood, numerous houses were completely destroyed, and Cathedral High School sustained sufficient damage to require demolition (currently planned for late 2014).[39] Some debris from Cathedral High School was found roughly 43 mi (69 km) east, discovered in Millbury.[10] Springfield's Sixteen Acres neighborhood, an upper-middle-class neighborhood – Springfield's most suburban in character – was similarly devastated.[40]

Continuing eastward, the tornado tracked through Wilbraham, causing near-total deforestation and extensive structural damage. The storm then moved through the center of Monson, damaging nearly every structure in the area. Many homes were badly damaged, some of which were completely flattened.[28] A total of 77 buildings were destroyed,[33] some completely. In some locations, trees were debarked and had most of their branches removed. Some unanchored homes in town slid from their foundations and collapsed. The roof of the old Monson High School, which is now the town's police building, was also completely destroyed.[28] In Natick, roughly 60 mi (97 km) from Monson, a picture from the town was found.[41]

Tree damage at Sturbridge

Shortly before 5:00 p.m.,[42] the tornado moved through Brimfield State Forest where it reached its maximum width of 0.5 mi (0.80 km). Thousands of trees were snapped and uprooted in this area.[28] Near Brimfield, the Village Green campground, a trailer park, was almost completely destroyed with 95 out of 96 trailers destroyed. Here, one person was killed after her RV was overturned by the tornado. Several homes were completely swept from their foundation in the Brimfield area as well.[33] Losses in this area exceeded $1 million.[43] Around 5:09 p.m., another tornado warning was issued to include portions of Norfolk County, Massachusetts and Providence County, Rhode Island.[44] The tornado then struck the Sturbridge area, where thousands of trees were downed and multiple homes were damaged. Significant damage took place to both buildings and trees for several miles before the storm moved into Southbridge. There, the Southbridge Airport sustained some damage and aircraft were picked up and thrown into the nearby woods. Once through the airport, the tornado ripped through the Rosemeade Apartments and devastated the neighborhood of Brookside Road, Charlton Street and Harrington Road at 5:18pm before it dissipated in southwestern Charlton at 5:27 p.m.[28]

Aftermath[edit]

National Guard troops and Massachusetts State Police secure Main Street in Springfield, Massachusetts on June 2, 2011.

Immediately following the storms, four people were reported dead, although later it was found that one death was unrelated to the storm.[30] Hundreds of people were admitted to hospitals with injuries ranging from lightning strikes to trauma, and almost 500 people were forced to leave their homes, most of whom stayed in the MassMutual Center.[45][46] Over two weeks later, more than 200 people were still homeless at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.[47] In addition to the MassMutual Center, Tantasqua High School in Sturbridge and Brookfield Elementary School were opened up as emergency shelters. A Special Emergency Response Team was activated by the state police in order to search for missing people and those trapped underneath debris.

In Springfield, firefighters from Boston, Worcester, Newton, Waltham, Watertown, and Weston assisted in rescue efforts.[48][49] Governor Deval Patrick also declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, and activated 1,000 National Guard troops for rescue and recovery efforts.[50] By June 2, six Red Cross shelters had been opened in the state and housed about 480 people.[51][52] On June 2, 2011, the Business Improvement District of Hartford, Connecticut – Springfield's bi-state twin city – and the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District were helping the Springfield Business Improvement District with clean-up.[53] Within two days of the tornadoes, the process of demolishing 'structures beyond repair' began as local officials inspected hundreds of damaged homes.[54] By June 7, three shelters remained open, housing 362 people.[55]

On June 15, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared Hampden and Worcester Counties as major disaster areas, allowing for government aid to be distributed to affected residents.[56] The following day, the number of insurance claims sharply rose from about 5,000 to 8,200. In addition to federal funds, state lawmakers passed a $50.3 million supplemental budget that included $15 million for emergency response, cleanup, and assistance and shelter to residents affected by the storms.[57] By June 20, just over $1 million in individual aid had been provided to 254 households.[56] $3.9M in federal funds were given to cities and towns for emergency items including debris removal and road and sidewalk repair.[58] In addition to assistance from MassDOT and waiving of license replacement fees in June by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, Massport donated $300,000 in unused construction supplies from the Boston Logan Residential Soundproofing Program.[58]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Name * (June 20, 2011). "WGGB abc40/FOX 6: News, Weather, Sports: Springfield, MA – Home". Wggb.com. Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
  4. ^ Parsons, Christi (June 11, 2011). "Gov. Deval Patrick requests federal disaster aid for tornadoes". BostonHerald.com. Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
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  6. ^ Patrick Johnson, The Republican. "President Obama's disaster area declaration opens door for federal aid, buoys hopes of tornado-tossed communities in Western Massachusetts". masslive.com. Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
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  19. ^ http://investmentwatchblog.com/mass-tornado-update-about-200-injured-50000-still-without-power-crews-searching-for-survivors-amid-debris/
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  36. ^ Jessica Heslam (June 2, 2011). "Brother’s tornado death rocks West Springfield family". Boston Herald. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
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  38. ^ "Governor Patrick, Sen. Kerry survey destruction in western Massachusetts". GazetteNET. Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
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  41. ^ Alissa Letkowski (June 4, 2011). "Monson Family Recognizes Son's Photo Blown to Natick by Tornado". Natick Patch. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
  42. ^ Travis Andersen (June 2, 2011). "In Brimfield, terror – and death – arrived in a cloud laden with debris". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
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  45. ^ By PAUL POSTppost@saratogian.com (June 3, 2011). "Area Red Cross volunteers sent to aid tornado victims in Springfield, Mass.". saratogian.com. Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
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  47. ^ Shane Symolon. "Hundreds still homeless after tornadoes". WWLP.com. Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
  48. ^ Jimenez, Monica (June 6, 2011). "Chelmsford firefighters collect for Springfield tornado relief – Chelmsford, Massachusetts – Chelmsford Independent". Wickedlocal.com. Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
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  58. ^ a b "Commonwealth Conversations / Transportation / Springfield: Tornado Relief Road Repair Funds". May 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 

External links[edit]