Tornadoes in Massachusetts

March 9, 2023

tornadoes in Massachusetts

When tropical air masses work their way up from the south, they often spawn tornadoes in the Northeast. The reason is that tropical air usually comes with a warm front, which can help create twisting winds in the atmosphere.

This year we have seen many of these warm fronts and they are the reason why we are seeing more tornadoes in Massachusetts.

What is a Tornado?

Tornadoes are one of the most powerful storms in nature. Spawned from thunderstorms, tornadoes can reach 300 mph and have paths that can be more than a mile wide.

In Massachusetts, we have seen a few tornadoes in recent years, including the 2011 Greater Springfield tornado that killed four people and damaged homes and businesses. It was the state's costliest tornado in terms of damage, not adjusted for inflation.

A tornado warning can be issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form. Be prepared to shelter immediately if a tornado is spotted or indicated by weather radar.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tracks tornadoes nationwide and has a database that traces their path of destruction. Click on the county where you live to see all of the tornadoes that have occurred in your area since 1950.

On June 1, 2011, an EF3 tornado ripped through western Massachusetts, leaving a trail of damage from Westfield to Charlton. It remained on the ground for an hour and 10 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

What Causes a Tornado?

A tornado is a violent windstorm spawned by thunderstorms. They're fast-spinning columns of air that extend from the base of a thunderstorm and strike ground with wind speeds that can approach 300 miles per hour.

They're a terrifying sight, especially because they can appear suddenly and without warning. They can kill and destroy entire communities in a matter of minutes.

Tornadoes form when a thunderstorm reaches the ground and its windspeeds become too high to be contained by a cloud. This occurs when the Coriolis effect causes the thunderhead to rotate, allowing bursts of wind underneath to funnel into its center and accelerate into a spinning tornado.

If you see a tornado, take cover immediately and find a safe location to shelter. This could be in a basement, storm cellar or the lowest floor of a sturdy building nearby.

How Do Tornadoes Damage Property?

Tornadoes are short-lived storms that can be devastating to property. They vary in intensity and can cause everything from minor repairs to complete destruction with little or no warning.

According to ValuePenguin’s analysis, tornadoes caused $14.1 billion in property damage to the United States over the last decade. Of this total, FEMA provided $360 million in public assistance to states hit by tornadoes.

However, the cost of repairing damage from a single tornado is much lower than a disaster in which a series of tornadoes strikes a large area. Moreover, rates for homeowners’ insurance don’t increase by the same proportion after a tornado hits as they do after hurricanes or tropical storms.

Fortunately, businesses can take steps to reduce their risk of damage from tornadoes and other high winds and thunderstorms. These include establishing emergency plans and protocols, procuring NOAA Weather Radios, and building tornado shelters where necessary.

How Do Tornadoes Kill People?

Tornadoes can kill people in a number of ways. They can damage and destroy buildings, causing severe injuries or fatalities; they can cause trees and other objects to fall on people; and they can cause boats or ships to become capsized.

Fortunately, violent tornadoes make up a relatively small percentage of all tornadoes. In the 20 years that final tornado counts are available from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, 113 violent tornadoes killed 741 people.

That makes violent tornadoes a very rare event.

In fact, in the past decade, no EF4 or EF5 tornadoes have occurred in the United States.

While a number of myths about tornadoes and safety can lead to complacency, it's important to remember that there is no guarantee you won't be killed by a tornado. Taking steps to protect yourself and your property can help you survive a tornado and protect those around you.


Tornado Dave is the best place to learn more about severe weather and climate science. He's a veritable tornado of information, and he loves nothing more than educating others about the importance of being prepared for extreme weather events. Make sure to check in with Tornado Dave often, as he's always updating his blog with the latest news and information!
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