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Deadly Tornadoes in Massachusetts

2011 has already become the dealiest tornado season in US historyOn the first of June 2011, Massachusetts recorded one of the most bizarre weather events in the state’s history. Massachusetts was hit by several tornadoes, causing the deaths of at least four people and injuring hundreds. The tornadoes occurred in at least 18 communities in the Springfield area including Westfield, West Springfield, Wilbraham, Sturbridge, Monson, Oxford, Charlton, Agawam, Brimfield, and Douglas.

Springfield is western Massachusetts’ largest city and it has been devastated. Roofs have been blown off, sidings have been ripped off, and fallen trees and telephone poles litter the streets and yards. It took days to restore power to the town.

In Monson, a town of nearly 10,000 residents, homes were lifted off their foundations and in some cases totally destroyed. The deadly tornado snapped trees like twigs, flipped cars and trapped people inside their homes under a mountain of debris.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a State of Emergency, and said the National Guard is fully deployed. FEMA is also on the ground to help those affected.

The Massachusetts tornadoes come after an outbreak of dozens of tornadoes that killed 314 people in five states on April 27 and a massive twister that killed 138 in Joplin, Missouri on May 22. These two events represent the deadliest day and the deadliest single tornado strike since modern record keeping began in 1950.

We are not even half way into the year and 2011 is already the deadliest US tornado season in 75 years. In addition to the death toll, it will cost billions to repair the damage caused by the deadly twisters.

A previous Global Warming is Real post published on May 25, reviewed the costs associated with tornadoes and reviewed how the spate of tornadoes and floods underscore the costs of global warming. As predicted in the article:

“…extreme weather is not limited to tornado alley; a lesser risk is also present in the Midwest all the way through the Ohio Valley to the East Coast. Storms are expected over much of the US from the Northeast all the way down to Mexico.”

The tornado in Massachusetts was the deadliest in sixteen years. While climate scientists are cautious, they admit that tornadoes are not at all typical to the New England region. Scientists concede that global warming has led to more precipitation and could be breeding the thunderstorms that spawn twisters.

Springfield has only had two tornadoes in the town’s entire history and wind speeds were the strongest recorded in forty-five years in Massachusetts. The total number of tornadoes as well as the levels of damage, death, and destruction makes this an anomalous season for tornadoes. It is even more shocking to see where they are happening. Although we expect tornadoes in the Midwestern part of the country and the Great Plains, it is highly irregular to see deadly tornadoes in places like Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, and now Massachusetts.

Senator John Kerry called the rare twisters in Massachusetts a “once in 100 years” event. The question is how many of these “once in 100 years” extreme weather events are required before we realize that our climate is being changed by human activity.

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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Chris White – Fotolia.com

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Comments

  1. While I do believe in Global Warming, I object to people pointing at one or two extreme events and showcasing them as evidence. Tornados are not unprecedented in Springfield, nor in Western Massachusetts. In fact, Massachusetts rates NUMBER ONE in the nation for tornado occurance per square mile. You are three times more likely to die from a tornado in Springfield,MA than in Oklahoma City. There have been numerous tornados in the citys history. A few: 1877, one moved east from westfield causing extreme damage in Westfield, Springfield, and Chiocpee, 1923, one moved from West Springfield over the river very near the one on June 1, and again in 1926, one moved from West Springfield over the river and into the south end, again very similar. There was another in 1908 that caused major damage in the 16 acres section of Springfield. Yes, they arent common, but they really arent common at any one spot in the US. We need to focus on real science and not point at oddities that have happened and been recorded in Massachusetts since the colonial days.

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