June 2, 2011

Tornadoes in Massachusetts

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

Downtown Springfield, MA after the tornado.
Photo by the Associated Press/Jessica Hill and taken from here.

I am moving out of my Cape Cod apartment this week, and today* my dad drove down from New Hampshire to help me. We spent the early afternoon loading a U-Haul trailer with some furniture items my parents and sister wanted– as well as a dozen or so large boxes of my books and school notes* –and then started on the drive from Cape Cod to New Hampshire via Boston. As we were driving in the Boston area in the late afternoon, we drove through quite the impressive storm. There was downpouring rain and very close thunder and lightning. We drove well under the speed limit, and at times visibility was quite poor. My dad drove the U-Haul, and I followed in my little car with a very long fiberglass racing kayak strapped to the roof. My kayak is very light, and though I tied it on well, I was quite anxious that it might be blown off the roof in the storm. My dad and I passed through at least two distinct thunderstorms, but we made it safely to New Hampshire. My mom was quite fretful for us on the way, however. We didn’t realize why she was so concerned about us until we sat down with a late take-out dinner and watched the news.

This evening a State of Emergency was declared in Massachusetts as a result of at least two tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. At least four people have died as a result of the severe weather. The deaths occurred in the towns of Springfield, Westfield, and Brimfield. Looking at this gallery of images of the destruction, I am surprised that there were not more casualties. Thank goodness, most people were able to take shelter in  basements. There are some incredible stories coming out– people taking random strangers into their basements for shelter, a man who survived a tree and electric line falling on his car, news reporters having to take shelter in the middle of reporting when the thunderstorm became too severe, entire roofs blown away, top floors of brick buildings demolished, short minutes between warning and arrival of the tornado, an interrupted senior prom, people standing outside their demolished homes to prevent looting of what few possessions still remain; the list goes on and on.

I must admit that, personally, I find the recent tornado damage in Massachusetts more shocking than the recent tornado damage that occurred out west in places such as Joplin, Missouri.  The death and destruction in Joplin were much more extensive than in Massachusetts, but I’ve never been to Joplin. However, I’ve been to downtown Springfield, Massachusetts many times. So, I find the images of the destruction of downtown Springfield very unsettling.

These recent tornadoes hit very close to home. My dad and I were very lucky that we did not encounter a tornado, and we really should not have been driving through those storms. We both brushed off the news of the storm, thinking it just another day of showers and thunderstorms. Next time I need to drive through a storm, I’m definitely checking the for tornado warnings beforehand.

Below is an incredible video of the tornado hitting Springfield earlier today. Just look at how that tornado whips up water and debris! Humbling, especially since I’ve driven over that bridge many times and would not have thought twice about driving over the bridge today, even if a thunderstorm were forecast.


*On Wednesday; I’m actually writing this after Midnight, so very early on Thursday.

**Yes, I hoard books. Whenever I move I find it easy to discard furniture, kitchen items, decorations, and (to a lesser extent) clothes, but I find it very difficult to discard books, even if I’m fairly certain I’ll never read them again. Oh, well. I suppose there are worse traits than being a book hoarder. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for storing all these books in your garage.