Special Announcement: 12th Anniversary of the June 1st 2011 Massachusetts Tornado Outbreak

Hello to all..

We have reached the 12 year anniversary of a historic day in Southern New England Weather History. The June 1st, 2011 Massachusetts Tornado Outbreak will be a day long remembered in weather history. This announcement recaps the tornado outbreak and the lessons learned that apply today. This message is leveraged from prior anniversary messages with some updates.

The June 1st, 2011 event was forecasted by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman Oklahoma as far as 5 days out. This is very rare for New England to be in a convective outlook past 3 days. The outlook of ‘Slight Risk’ for severe weather would continue right up through June 1st. As we got into June 1st, a fast moving area of rapidly developing severe thunderstorms ahead of the warm front affected portions of Southern New Hampshire and Northeast Massachusetts producing large hail. These storms quickly moved out of area and were a sign of things to come and how explosive the atmosphere was on June 1st. Abundant sunshine and rapid heating and destabilization coupled with extremely strong wind shear values, set the stage for a historic major severe weather outbreak in Massachusetts and other parts of New England. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman Oklahoma issued a Mesoscale Convective Discussion highlighting the need for Tornado Watches for much of New York and New England. The Tornado Watches would be issued and supercell severe thunderstorms would move into Southern New England.

Initially the supercells produced very large hail including hail slightly over 4″ in diameter in East Windsor Massachusetts, Berkshire County, which may potentially set the new record for the commonwealth as far as hail size but no tornadic or wind damage activity through 400 PM. This is when the supercell began to take shape in Western Hampden County Massachusetts and set the stage for the large, long track EF-3 Tornado that traversed the area from Westfield to Charlton Massachusetts for a 38-mile long damage path and was on the ground for 70 minutes. Three smaller tornadoes occurred in Western and Central Massachusetts from additional supercells moving through the area. Another area of supercells went through Northern Worcester County into Middlesex and Suffolk Counties producing Golf Ball Sized hail and pockets of wind damage all the way into the Metro Boston area.

June 1st, 2011 underscored how important Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters and non-Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters are to the warning process and how the timely severe weather reporting can not only help the warning process but can also help saves lives. The near real-time reporting of the large EF-3 tornado touchdown with initial preliminary reports in Westfield including from Al Giguere Jr.-KB1VNH, the actual spotting of the EF3 Tornado by several Amateurs including KB1NOX-Richard Stewart who was in a car with several other Amateurs, Western Massachusetts SKYWARN Coordinator, Ray-W1NWS, and the amazing remote webcam footage from WWLP-TV channel 22 in Springfield Massachusetts helped to tell people that not only was this a radar detected tornado but that it was definitely on the ground and doing significant damage. It is quite likely that many lives were saved by this near realtime reporting of the tornado being on the ground.

Amateur Radio SKYWARN Nets were active on several Amateur Radio Repeaters including the 146.940-Mount Tom Repeater run by the Mount Tom Amateur Radio Club and with Amateur Radio members and SKYWARN Spotters from the Hampden County Radio Association also reporting into the net. The 146.970-Paxton Repeater run by the Central Massachusetts Amateur Radio Club was active for several hours as well. Both repeaters providing significant near realtime reporting for situational awareness and disaster intelligence purposes not only to the National Weather Service but also to the media, local, state and federal emergency management officials. The Amateur Radio Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP)/Echolink system on the echolink conference *NEW-ENG* node 9123/IRLP 9123 was also active with liaisons from various Amateur Radio nets reporting into the network. While not in the NWS Boston/Norton (formerly Taunton) Coverage Area, the 146.910-Mount Greylock Repeater was active with Berkshire County SKYWARN as run by Rick-WA1ZHM with Walt-N1DQU providing information from the net into NWS. Net Controls for the 146.940 Mount Tom Net were Bob Meneguzzo-K1YO and for the 146.970 Paxton Net, John Ruggiero-N2YHK. N9SC-Steve Craven provided a critical liaison link from the 146.970-Paxton Repeater Net to the 146.940-Mount Tom Net during the tornadic outbreak. Many Amateur Radio Operators and non-Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters reported severe weather conditions despite being at risk from these powerful supercells. We are forever grateful for the reporting that helped save lives. The outpouring of damage assessment pictures and videos and reports near and after the event was unprecedented. This clearly helped Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), local and state emergency management perform their duties to try and bring as many resources to bear on the significant path of destruction carved out by the tornado outbreak.

For the victims, today is likely a painful reminder of what occurred and what loses they faced in terms of property damage and possibly lives lost. Our thoughts and prayers remain to all those people that are affected and we hope that they have fully recovered and moved on with their lives after this tornado outbreak.

For those not impacted by such a significant event as June 1st and not impacted severely by other significant severe weather events that have occurred over the past decade, this is a reminder that we must all be prepared for these significant weather situations that occur at low frequency but can be with high impact. The more self-sufficient and prepared we are, the easier the situation will be if we are faced with such a significant scenario if it comes our way and potentially occurs in a more widespread way. For those SKYWARN Spotters and Amateur Radio Operators who have not witnessed such severe weather, this is why we train and prepare because we never know the hour or day where a critical severe weather report can help the warning process and save lives.

On a personal level, we never want severe weather like this to happen but if it has to happen, the level of commitment, support and reporting of the situation in near realtime on June 1st with a high level of precision and quality but also in the quantity that the reports came through in our network is a testament to all of you for remaining dedicated and supportive of the National Weather Service SKYWARN program. It is an honor and a privilege for myself and many of our Amateur Radio SKYWARN Coordinators across the NWS Boston/Norton Coverage Area to serve as leaders of the program and we appreciate everything you do, as without all of you, we wouldn’t have the SKYWARN program we have today in our region. Having been the leader of the program for over 27 years, this was our finest hour in supporting the NWS office and saving lives and it couldn’t have been done without all of your support.

Given the 12-year anniversary, here are some stories from SKYWARN Spotters, Amateur Radio Operators and others from this day as collected in the last few days leading up to this year’s anniversary:

Steve Hooke – Norfolk County Task Force:
12 years ago today I responded to Brimfield with the Norfolk County Task Force to assist with search and rescue after the tornado hit. Only those who were there that night can really understand what we did and what we saw. The destruction was unimaginable. Those assigned to the task force that day have my ultimate respect.

Frank Cummings via the WX1BOX Facebook Page:
I visited a person in that area a few weeks after the storms. His house and property were essentially untouched. All that was left of his next door neighbor’s home was the foundation. and the devastation was widespread. The whole area looked like a game of Giant Pick Up Sticks – trees laying askew for as far as the eye could see and foundations left on lots stripped of almost vegetation. Terrible.

Gail Morrissey – Monson, MA – WX1BOX Twitter Feed:
I live three houses down from a tilted one and was home when it hit. Not a fun experience. The upside down house, Judy and Doug’s, were up the street from me. I learned to be a weather spotter from you after this.

Josh Adler – WX1BOX Twitter Feed:
Flew into these storms coming back from LAX to Logan. Single most turbulent flight I’ve ever been on. It was a wild ride!

Joe Sciacca – SKYWARN Spotter and Meteorologist for Precision Weather Forecasting, Inc.:
Here are my memories of June 1, 2011: I was a sophomore in high school at Austin Prep in Reading, MA. It was a Tuesday morning and I was on my way to school. Around 7:30 am I looked to the west and I saw huge overshooting cloud tops. I told my mom that today was going to be a dangerous severe weather day in Southern New England. Checking the radar before school started around 8, I saw a powerful line of thunderstorms in western New England moving east with hail reports. Little that I knew, that the hail was up to 4 inches in diameter. In my younger forecasting days, I had limited model data but the data that I had at the time indicated to me that this was going to be unusual setup. I saw alot of shear, a well mixed boundary layer, and high severe weather parameters. Around 10am or so, the line of thunderstorms moved into the Reading area and there was loud thunder and heavy rain. I checked the radar and satellite and saw clearing coming in from the west. When I saw the clearing sky, I upped my tornado threat to a 8/10 for central Southern New England. I told the kids in my class that a tornado will likely happen today in Western MA. They laughed and said “tornadoes don’t happen here”. As the afternoon went on, about 1 pm in my last class of the day I checked on the weather conditions in the region and I saw a tornado watch issued to our west I think in NY state. We had a entire afternoon of strong heating and destabilization of the atmosphere. Once school let out around 2 and on my way home closer to 3, I looked out to the west, and I saw massive cloud tops that I think were near 80 or so miles to my west from I-93 in Reading, MA. Once I got home, I tuned on the TV and then closer to 4, the tornado warnings started in western MA and it was several hours of live tornadoes on local TV stations like WHDH 7, NECN, WBZ, WCVB. At one point the EAS came on TV. That was insane for me who at the time was 16. It was impossible for me to do my homework that afternoon because of the severe weather and the excitement that I had of watching the TV meteorologist handle what was becoming a historic weather event locally. By time 10pm came, I remember the storms approached into Boston with a severe thundershower if I remember correctly. At this time I had to call it a day since I had school the next day.

Bob Yates – SKYWARN Spotter (Provided an additional photo from Brimfield from 6/1/11):
I volunteered for a few days delivering sandwiches and water from the church just after roads were cleared-

Eric Mikal Birkeland – SKYWARN Spotter:
The damage scar can still be seen by satellite after it snows.

Billy Doyle – SKYWARN Spotter:
I remember very well I was at Cracker Barrel in Sturbridge and a monson on call fire fighter was eating and his pager went off

Jeff Aborn – SKYWARN and Co-Op Observer – Provided Photos from the tornado path on the WX1BOX Tornado feed:
On the afternoon of June 1, 2011 an EF-3 tornado traveled 38 miles through parts of western & central Massachusetts. It caused damage in W Springfield, Monson, Brimfield, and Southbridge. Three lives were taken by the storm and 200 injuries. Jeff–Staffordville

We hope this remembrance makes people never forget what happened on June 1st 2011 and remind ourselves again that we must remain, prepared and vigilant especially here in New England where events such as June 1st can happen but on a low frequency basis. A June 1st 2011 video collage has been posted at our WX1BOX Video Youtube Channel with the direct link listed below as well as a June 1st 2011 tornado timeline video by SKYWARN Spotter Dan Butler. Also listed below is the NWS Massachusetts Tornado Summary, the NWS June 1st, 2011 Facebook Graphic, the ARRL Story on the June 1st Tornado Outbreak, the NWS Taunton June 1st Local Storm Report and the Raw Storm log from the WX1BOX Amateur Radio Station.

Amateur Radio SKYWARN Video – June 1st, 2011:

Dan Butler SKYWARN Spotter – June 1st, 2011 – Springfield Massachusetts Tornado – Warning: Please note light profanity in this video as there are livewitness videos as part of the timeline:

NWS Boston/Norton June 1st, 2011 Facebook Graphics:

NWS Boston/Norton Local Storm Reports 6/1/11:

NWS Boston/Norton Public Information Statement – Tornado Classifications from 6/1/11:

ARRL Story from 6/1/11 – Central Massachusetts Experiences Rare Tornado, Area Hams Hasten to Help:

NWS Boston/Norton-WX1BOX Raw Amateur Radio Storm Log:

Respectfully Submitted,

Robert Macedo (KD1CY)
ARES SKYWARN Coordinator
Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator
Home Phone #: (508) 994-1875
Home/Data #: (508) 997-4503
Email Address: rmacedo@rcn.com
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