Flint–Worcester tornado outbreak sequence
|Date(s)||June 7–9, 1953|
|Maximum rated tornado||F5 (Fujita scale)|
|Damages||$2.56 billion (2006 USD)|
The 1953 Flint–Worcester tornado outbreak sequence was a devastating tornado outbreak sequence spanning three days, two of which featured tornadoes each causing at least 90 deaths—an F5 occurring in Flint, Michigan, on June 8, 1953, and an F4 in Worcester, Massachusetts, on June 9.[nb 1][nb 2] These tornadoes are among the deadliest in United States history and were caused by the same storm system that moved eastward across the nation. The tornadoes are also related together in the public mind because, for a brief period following the Worcester tornado, it was debated in the U.S. Congress whether recent atomic bomb testing in the upper atmosphere had caused the tornadoes. Congressman James E. Van Zandt (R-Penn.) was among several members of Congress who expressed their belief that the June 4th bomb testing created the tornadoes, which occurred far outside the traditional tornado alley. They demanded a response from the government. Meteorologists quickly dispelled such an assertion, and Congressman Van Zandt later retracted his statement.
The Flint-Worcester Tornadoes were the most infamous storms produced by a larger outbreak of severe weather that began in Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin, before moving across the Great Lakes states, and then into New York and New England. Other F3 and F4 tornadoes struck other locations in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire and Ohio.
This chart shows the number of tornadoes spawned from the initial storm system.
June 7 event
|List of confirmed tornadoes — June 7, 1953|
|F1||E of Morland||Graham||1900||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F2||S of Hill City||Graham||1900||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F0||S of Edmond||Graham||1900||10.9 miles (17.5 km)|
|F0||NE of Tampa to SW of Herington||Marion, Dickinson||0445||12.6 miles (20.3 km)|
|F1||W of Julesburg||Sedgwick||2000||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F1||N of Julesburg||Sedgwick||2000||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F0||SW of Julesburg (1st tornado)||Sedgwick||2200||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F0||SW of Julesburg (2nd tornado)||Sedgwick||2200||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F0||NW of Julesburg||Sedgwick||2200||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F2||NE of Mason City||Custer, Sherman, Valley||2030||6.6 miles (10.6 km)||Farm houses were destroyed and livestock were killed. Barns were leveled as well.|
|F2||NW of Giltner||Hamilton||2100||6.6 miles (10.6 km)||Tornado struck three farms, and roofs were torn off homes.|
|F0||S of Phillips||Hamilton||2100||4.1 miles (6.6 km)|
|F1||NE of Rising City to NW of Linwood||Butler||2100||22.7 miles (36.5 km)||Barns were destroyed on a dozen farms.|
|F4||NW of Loup City to SW of Ord||Sherman, Valley||2115||15 miles (24 km)||11 deaths - Homes were completely leveled and a car was thrown a quarter mile through the air. Worst damage occurred near Arcadia, where a farm was swept away, killing a family of 10. Bodies were thrown up to half a mile away from the residence. Farm machinery was thrown as well.|
|F2||E of Scotia to SW of Spalding||Greeley||2200||20.1 miles (32.3 km)|
|F2||NE of Octavia||Butler||2200||6.9 miles (11.1 km)|
|F3||NW of Albion||Boone||2215||8 miles (13 km)||A house was destroyed along with multiple barns. Paint was stripped from a tractor and livestock were killed.|
|F0||SE of Upland||Franklin||2230||9 miles (14 km)|
|F1||E of Macon||Franklin||2300||15 miles (24 km)|
|F2||SW of Battle Creek to S of Pierce||Madison||2300||16.6 miles (26.7 km)|
|F2||SW of Pierce to SW of Laurel||Pierce, Cedar||2300||31 miles (50 km)||Barns and outbuildings were destroyed on a dozen farms. Caused $31,000 in damage.|
|F1||N of Breslau||Pierce||2310||8.2 miles (13.2 km)|
|F0||SW of Martinsburg||Dixon||2340||1.5 miles (2.4 km)|
|F2||NW of Blair||Washington||0045||4.1 miles (6.6 km)|
|F0||S of Hooper||Dodge||0100||1 mile (1.6 km)||Farm buildings and barns were destroyed.|
|F0||N of Mitchell||Davison||2345||1.5 miles (2.4 km)|
|F2||NE of Westfield||Plymouth||0015||11.3 miles (18.2 km)||Barns were destroyed.|
|F2||N of Ida Grove to E of Fenton||Ida, Sac, Pocahontas, Kossuth||0130||49.2 miles (79.2 km)||Barns were destroyed|
|F2||N of Gowrie to SW of Olaf||Webster, Hamilton, Wright||0300||49 miles (79 km)||A church was lifted up and set down again. Barns were destroyed as well.|
|F3||W of Pomeroy to SE of Bode||Calhoun, Pocahontas, Humboldt||0315||30.7 miles (49.4 km)|
|F2||NE of Winterset to E of Walford||Madison, Warren, Polk, Jasper, Poweshiek, Iowa, Johnson||0315||116 miles (187 km)||Several barns were destroyed.|
|F1||E of Boxholm||Boone, Hamilton||0330||2.3 miles (3.7 km)|
|F1||SE of Trimont to SE of Grogan||Martin, Watonwan||0100||19.1 miles (30.7 km)|
|Source: Tornado History Project - June 7, 1953 Storm Data(Grazulis, 1993)|
June 8 event
|List of confirmed tornadoes — June 8, 1953|
|F4||NE of Temperance||Monroe||2315||5.4 miles (8.7 km)||4 deaths - 15 houses destroyed and 14 more damaged. Trucks and cars were hurled through the air.|
|F3||SW of Ann Arbor||Washtenaw||0030||11.3 miles (18.2 km)||1 death - A large tree landed on one house. One house was leveled along with three barns.|
|F3||W of Milford||Livingston, Oakland||0030||9.1 miles (14.6 km)||Caused damage to several buildings at the GM Proving Grounds 5 miles west of Milford.|
|F2||E of Sand Lake to N of Oscoda||Iosco||0040||16.6 miles (26.7 km)||4 deaths - Five vacation cabins were leveled, and six others were badly damaged. Rating disputed, ranked F3 by Grazulis.|
|F3||S of Spruce||Alcona||0108||1.8 miles (2.9 km)||Five large barns were destroyed and livestock were killed. Rated F2 by Grazulis.|
|F5||N of Flushing to N of Columbiaville||Genesee, Lapeer||0130||18.9 miles (30.4 km)||116 deaths - See section on this tornado|
|F0||SW of Caseville||Huron||0300||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F4||N of Kings Mill to N of Port Huron||Lapeer, St. Clair||0330||33.8 miles (54.4 km)||1 death - Formed after the Flint tornado dissipated. Several homes and barns were blown away. One man was killed and several family members seriously injured near the St. Clair County line when their home was destroyed.|
|F4||N of Deshler to Cleveland||Henry, Wood, Sandusky, Erie, Lorain, Cuyahoga||0000||118 miles (190 km)||18 deaths - Was likely a tornado family according to Grazulis, with the first one (F4+) touching down near Deshler, and striking the north edge of Cygnet, where homes were swept away at possible F5 intensity, and 8 people were killed. This first tornado destroyed a steel and concrete bridge as it passed near Jerry City. The second tornado (F3) touched down east of Kimball, passed south of Ceylon and ended near Vermilion, destroying multiple homes along the path and killing one person. The third tornado (F3) touched down south of Elyria, and tore across west Cleveland. It killed 7 and destroyed at least 100 homes before moving offshore into Lake Erie.|
|Source: Tornado History Project - June 8, 1953 Storm Data, NCDC Storm Events Database, Grazulis 1993|
June 9 event
|List of confirmed tornadoes — June 9, 1953|
|F4||W of Petersham to NE of Fayville||Worcester||2025||34.9 miles (56.2 km)||90 deaths - See section on this tornado|
|F3||E of West Millbury to SE of Foxborough||Worcester, Norfolk, Bristol||2130||28 miles (45 km)||Cars and trucks were overturned and numerous trees were downed. Homes sustained roof and wall damage.|
|F3||N of Exeter||Rockingham||2120||1.5 miles (2.4 km)||Fifteen homes and businesses had their roofs torn off in the Jady Hill area. The Exeter Country Club lodge was destroyed.|
|F1||W of South Berwick||Strafford||2200||1 mile (1.6 km)|
|Source: Tornado History Project - June 9, 1953 Storm Data, NCDC Storm Events Database, Grazulis 1993|
An F5 tornado hit Flint, Michigan on June 8, 1953. The tornado moved east-northeast 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Flushing and devastated the north side of Flint and Beecher. The tornado first descended about 8:30 p.m. on a humid evening near a drive-in movie theater that was flickering to life at twilight time. Motorists in the drive-in began to flee in panic, creating many auto accidents on nearby roads. The tornado dissipated near Lapeer, Michigan. Nearly every home was destroyed on both sides of Coldwater Road. Multiple deaths were reported in 20 families, and it was reported that papers from Flint were deposited in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, some sixty miles east of Flint. Large sections of neighborhoods were completely swept away, with only foundations left. Trees were debarked and vehicles were thrown and mangled. One hundred and sixteen were killed, making it the tenth deadliest tornado in U.S. history. The death toll was surpassed by the 2011 Joplin tornado. It is also one of only two F5 tornadoes ever to hit in Michigan. Another F5 would hit in Hudsonville on April 3, 1956.
The storm system that created the Flint tornado moved eastward over southern Ontario and Lake Erie during the early morning hours of June 9. As radar was still primitive (or nonexistent) in 1953, inadequate severe weather predictions resulted.(Even during the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, weather radar was still not up to this task; that outbreak resulted in a technological upgrade.) The Weather Bureau in Buffalo, New York merely predicted thunderstorms and said that "a tornado may occur." As early as 10 A.M., however, the Weather Bureau in Boston anticipated the likelihood of tornadic conditions that afternoon but feared the word "tornado" would strike panic in the public, and refrained from using it. Instead, as a compromise, they issued New England's first-ever severe thunderstorm watch.
Rain fell across Worcester County throughout the day on June 9. In New York, a strong cluster of thunderstorms began to build, moving eastward into Massachusetts. At approximately 4:25 pm (EST), a funnel cloud formed near the Quabbin Reservoir near New Salem. Very soon after, a tornado spawned from the funnel cloud, touching down in a forest outside of the rural community of Petersham. The tornado then proceeded to pass through a farm field, where it struck a farmhouse and killed two people. As the storm moved eastward at approximately 35 mph (58 km/h), it hit the towns of Rutland and Holden, where 11 people were killed in total.(Grazulis, 1993)
At about 5:00 pm, the tornado moved into the city of Worcester, alarming many residents. According to eyewitness accounts, the storm moved in extremely quickly, shocking the townsfolk. "I saw it grow noticeably darker," said eyewitness George Carlson, "Then it hit. Houses tumbled, trees fell, and it was all over. The tornado was definitely discernible. Like when you can see the lines of rain in an approaching rainstorm," he added. The tornado, which had grown to a mile (1.6 km) wide, destroyed several structures in Northern Worcester, including parts of Assumption College. Other major structures included a newly built factory and a large residential development. Residential areas were devastated, where entire rows of homes swept away at possible F5 intensity.
The funnel maintained its 1-mile width as it passed throughout much of Shrewsbury, and still did a high amount of damage when it moved through downtown Westborough, where it began curving towards the northeast in its final leg. In the storm's final moments, 3 were killed when Fayville Post Office in Southborough collapsed. Around the time it ended 5:45 pm, a tornado warning was issued, although by then it was too late.
|All deaths were tornado-related|
1953 tornado season in perspective
The year 1953 saw some of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, including the Waco Tornado that hit on May 11, the Flint tornado of June 8, and the Worcester tornado on June 9. These 3 storms were also unique in occurring within a 30-day period.
Other severe tornadoes of 1953 hit Warner Robins, Georgia in April, San Angelo, Texas in May (same day as Waco), Port Huron, Michigan also in May, Cleveland in June (same day as Flint), and Vicksburg, Mississippi in December.
- Schneider, Russell S.; Harold E. Brooks; Joseph T. Schaefer. "Tornado Outbreak Day Sequences: Historic Events and Climatology (1875-2003)". Norman, Oklahoma: Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
- "Southeast Michigan Tornado Climatology". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
- "1953 Beecher Tornado". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
- "The 25 Deadliest U.S. Tornadoes". National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "Joplin, Mo., single deadliest tornado since 1950". CBS News.
- O'Toole, John (1993). Tornado! 84 Minutes, 94 Lives. Chandler House Press. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
- Pletcher 2006 p. 155
- Wheeler, James R. (June 10, 1953). "Randall Street homes grim reminders of death, destruction". Worcester Telegram. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- Chittick, William F. (2003). The Worcester tornado: June 9, 1953. W.F. Chittick. p. 19.
- Chittick, William F. (2003). The Worcester Tornado, June 9, 1953. Bristol, RI: Private Publication.
- Chittick, William F. (2005). What Is So Rare As A Day In June: The Worcester Tornado, June 9, 1953. Bristol, RI: Multimedia Presentation.
- O'Toole, John M. (1993). Tornado! 84 minutes, 94 lives. Worcester: Chandler House Press. ISBN 0-9636277-0-8
- An outbreak is generally defined as a group of at least six tornadoes (the number sometimes varies slightly according to local climatology) with no more than a six-hour gap between individual tornadoes. An outbreak sequence, prior to (after) modern records that began in 1950, is defined as, at most, two (one) consecutive days without at least one significant (F2 or stronger) tornado.
- All damage totals are in 1953 United States dollars unless otherwise noted.
- Full map of Flint-Worcester tornado outbreak Tornado History Project
- Video interview of tornado survivor (and nurse) who tended to injured
- Beecher Tornado - Flint Public Library Archive
- Beecher Tornado - Flint Journal Beecher Tornado Anniversary
- 1953 Worcester Tornado Slideshow - City of Worcester
- Worcester Telegram and Gazette site on Worcester tornado
- The Worcester Tornado of 1953
- June 7-9, 1953 — The Flint – Worcester Outbreak (Shawn Schuman)
- Worcester, MA Terrible Tornado Death and Damage, June 1953 at GenDisasters.com
- Flint and Other Towns, MI and OH Tornadoes, June 1953 at GenDisasters.com
|10 costliest US tornadoes|
|Rank||Area affected||Date||Damage 1||Adjusted Damage 2|
|1||Joplin, Missouri||May 22, 2011||2800||2935|
|2||Tuscaloosa, Alabama||April 27, 2011||2450||2569|
|3||Moore, Oklahoma||May 20, 2013||2000||2025|
|4||Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma||May 3, 1999||1000||1415|
|5||Hackleburg, Alabama||April 27, 2011||1290||1352|
|6||Wichita Falls, Texas||April 10, 1979||400||1299|
|7||Omaha, Nebraska||May 6, 1975||250||1094|
|8||Washington, Illinois||November 17, 2013||935||947|
|9||Lubbock, Texas||May 11, 1970||250||820|
|10||Topeka, Kansas||June 8, 1966||250||726|
Source: Brooks, Harold E.; C. A. Doswell (Feb 2001). "Normalized Damage from Major Tornadoes in the United States: 1890–1999". Weather and Forecasting (American Meteorological Society) 16 (1): 168–76. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(2001)016<0168:NDFMTI>2.0.CO;2. 3
1. These are the unadjusted damage totals in millions of US dollars.
2. Raw damage totals adjusted for inflation, in millions of 2015 USD.
3. A search of NCDC Storm Data indicates no tornadoes between 1999 and 2010 have caused more than $400 million in damage.