SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – June 1, 2011, is a day many 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 had indicated the chance for severe weather across Northeast and New England.
By late morning on June 1, 2011, the National Weather Service had issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch that included northeastern Pennsylvania, most of New York state, western Massachusetts and northern New England.
A Tornado Watch was issued by 1 p.m. across much of New England signaling the start of a very turbulent afternoon in the region.
By 4 p.m., the NWS said a thunderstorm formed over Hampden County in western Massachusetts that led to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. The storm intensified quickly, and that warning was replaced with a Tornado Warning as rotation within the storm strengthened.
As the storm traveled east at 35 mph, it strengthened into a supercell, and the tornado touched down in the Munger Hill section of Westfield, Massachusetts, at 4:17 p.m.
Damage there was mainly limited to trees. However, the roof of Munger Hill Elementary School was damaged, according to the NWS.
- Image 1 of 9
- Image 2 of 9
- Image 3 of 9
- Image 4 of 9
- Image 5 of 9
- Image 6 of 9
- Image 7 of 9
- Image 8 of 9
- Image 9 of 9
The tornado 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 buildings had their roofs torn off and some buildings were completely destroyed.
The tornado then crossed the Connecticut River and into the city of Springfield. Extensive damage was reported in the south side of the downtown area, and many homes in the area were destroyed. Other buildings suffered major 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 where it reached its maximum width of about a half-mile.
More significant damage was reported to both trees and structures for miles through Brimfield before the tornado crossed into Worcester County 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 lifting back into the air to the northeast of Southbridge, Massachusetts.
Springfield tornado: By the numbers
According to the NWS, three people were killed in the tornado, and 200 other people were treated for injuries.
It's estimated that 1,400 homes and at least 78 businesses were damaged or destroyed during the storm.
Of the homes destroyed, the NWS said 300 were completely demolished, including 200 in Springfield, 51 in Monson, 39 in Brimfield and 13 in Wilbraham.
At least 200 others were condemned and more than 300 apartments were destroyed throughout the region.
Two public schools in Springfield and one in Westfield were damaged, as well as two parochial schools that were destroyed.
In addition, nearly 10,000 acres of forest were destroyed, with an estimated cleanup cost of $3.6 million.
At least 330 residents stayed in shelters for a month after the storm and then-President Barack Obama declared a Major Disaster Declaration for Hampden County after the tornado.
According to the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, 9,500 claims were made by residents that added 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 that also totaled $20 million.