EF-3 tornado tore across Massachusetts 12 years ago leaving 38-mile path of destruction

Dozens of residents stayed in shelters for a month after the deadly storm, and then-President Barack Obama signed a Major Disaster Declaration in Massachusetts after the tornado that struck Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – June 1, 2011, is a day most people in Massachusetts will never forget.

On that Wednesday afternoon, a powerful EF-3 tornado with winds of 160 mph tore through Western and Central Massachusetts, carving a 38-mile path of destruction that would leave three people dead, 200 more injured, and hundreds of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed.

In the days leading up to the tornado, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) had indicated that there was a chance of severe weather across the Northeast and New England.


By late morning on June 1, the National Weather Service (NWS) had issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch that included millions of people from northeastern Pennsylvania through most of New York state, western Massachusetts, and Vermont and New Hampshire in northern New England.

A Tornado Watch was issued by 1 p.m. that included much of New England that signaled the start of a violent afternoon across the region.

The NWS said a thunderstorm formed over Hampden County in Western Massachusetts by 4 p.m. that afternoon, leading to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. That storm intensified quickly, and that warning was replaced by a Tornado Warning as the rotation within the storm strengthened.

As the storm traveled to the east at 35 mph, it strengthened into a supercell thunderstorm, and the tornado touched down in the Munger Hill section of Westfield, Massachusetts, at 4:17 p.m.

Damage there was limited to primarily trees. However, the roof of Munger Hill Elementary School was damaged, according to the NWS.


The tornado then gained strength as it moved into West Springfield, Massachusetts, and caused extensive damage to industrial buildings and homes in the area. The NWS said several structures had their roofs torn off, and some buildings were destroyed.

The tornado then crossed the Connecticut River and into the city of Springfield. There, extensive damage was reported on the south side of the downtown area, and many homes were destroyed. Other buildings suffered significant damage, and roofs had been blown off.

After tearing through Springfield, the tornado continued on its eastward track and moved through the center of Monson, Massachusetts, destroying homes and businesses along the way. The tornado then tore across Brimfield State Forest, reaching its maximum width of about a half-mile.

More significant damage was reported to both trees and structures for miles through Brimfield, Massachusetts, before the tornado crossed into Worcester County, Massachusetts, just south of Route 20, according to the NWS.

The tornado then crossed over Interstate 84 just south of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and continued for several more miles before dissipating northeast of Sturbridge.


Springfield, Massachusetts, tornado: By the numbers

According to the NWS, three people were killed in the tornado, and 200 others were injured.

It’s estimated that 1,400 homes and at least 78 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Of the homes destroyed in the tornado, 300 were completely demolished, including 200 in Springfield, 51 in Monson, 39 in Brimfield and 13 in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

At least 200 others were condemned, and more than 300 apartments were destroyed across the region.

Two public schools in Springfield and one in Westfield were damaged, and two parochial schools were destroyed.

In addition, nearly 10,000 acres of forest were destroyed, with an estimated cleanup cost of $3.6 million.

Dozens of residents stayed in shelters for a month after the deadly storm, and then-President Barack Obama signed a Major Disaster Declaration in Massachusetts after the tornado.

According to the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, residents made 9,500 claims, adding up to $175 million. That number included 5,000 personal claims totaling $135 million, 3,500 auto claims totaling $20 million and 1,000 commercial property claims totaling $20 million for the June disaster