CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – When thunderstorms become severe they are capable of producing tornadoes. On average 4 to 5 tornadoes touch down in Massachusetts each year.
In the summer of 2020, a weak tornado touched down in Sandisfield and moved through Tolland and Blandford. It knocked down numerous trees in the area of Belden Road in Tolland and caused minor damage to some homes. While most of the tornadoes we get tend to be on the weak side, there have been a number of very destructive and even deadly tornadoes that have affected us here in western Massachusetts.
The biggest in recent memory of course being the June 1st tornado which touched down in 2011. That tornado was an EF-3 with winds estimated at 160 mph. It left a path of destruction 38 miles long from Westfield to Charlton. Three people died as a direct result of the tornado and 200 people were injured.
Back in 1995 on May 29th, Memorial Day, another deadly tornado touched down in the Berkshires. The Great Barrington tornado was an F-4 with winds estimated at 260 mph. It leveled the Great Barrington Fairgrounds and killed 3 people, two students and a faculty member from the Eagleton School.
While it’s more common for severe weather and tornadoes to occur during the spring and summer months, some powerful tornadoes have also occurred in the fall and fairly recently, even in winter. On October 3, 1979, of one of the most memorable tornadoes touched down in northern Connecticut and western Massachusetts.
“The enormous task of cleaning up after a killer tornado is facing thousands of people in the Windsor Locks, Connecticut area,” said 22News Anchor Norm Peters during a 1979 newscast.
The Windsor Locks tornado was also an F-4 with winds in excess of 200 mph. It touched down in the town of Windsor, Connecticut and moved up along Route 75 into Feeding Hills. The tornado all but wiped out the Bradley Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Twenty-five planes were destroyed and the roof was ripped off a hangar. Sixty-five homes were destroyed in the tornado’s 11 mile path of destruction.
In Feeding Hills, the Granger Elementary School was shut down for weeks due to water and structural damage. In all, three people lost their lives and 500 people were injured.
In 2017 we actually had the first ever recorded tornado in the month of February in Massachusetts. The Conway tornado, which first touched down in Goshen, occurred on February 26th. It was an EF-1 tornado with maximum winds of 110 miles per hour. It caused significant damage and even destroyed some homes. The United Congregational Church on Whately Road was damaged so badly it had to be demolished.
When conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form, a Tornado Watch is issued. You should pay close attention to the weather and be prepared to take action. When a tornado is spotted or indicated on radar a Tornado Warning is issued. You should then take immediate action and head to the basement or the lowest floor of your home and away from any windows.