An official tornado watch was in effect from the Philadelphia area to northern Maine near the Canadian border until early evening, but has been extended for some areas, including Massachusetts, Northern Connecticut, Southern New Hampshire and Central Rhode Island until 11 PM EST, the National Weather Service reported. Parts of the region also were under a thunderstorm watch that threatened to bring hail and wind gusts as strong as 70 miles per hour.
According to the National Weather Service Spokesman Chris Vaccaro, “there was a tornado on the ground and reports of widespread damage in Hampden, Massachusetts, and also reports of damage in Springfield.”
Much of the damage was in Springfield’s South End neighborhood near Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River, as the heavy winds could be seen churning the Connecticut River and hail, heavy rain and thunder hammered the area. At least one person was confirmed as killed in the storm, with many others injured. Massachesetts Governor Deval Patrick has declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts as well. New updates have now raised the death toll to 4 confirmed deaths, according to Peter Judge of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, with at least one death in West Springfield when a car overturned, with two in Westfield and one in Brimfield. Tornadoes were confirmed in Westfield, Springfield, West Springfield, Brimfield, Wilbraham, Sturbridge, Monson, Oxford, Charlton, and Agawam, and there was also a confirmed funnel cloud spotted in Worcester.
Governor Patrick also informed us that as many as 26,000 people were without electrical service, and that at least 19 communities were affected by the storms.
Updated 10:07 PM EST: Schools in Springfield, Wilbraham, Hampden and Westfield will be closed on Thursday after the tornado damaged a number of buildings in the communities. Cathedral High School and St. Michael’s Academy in Springfield is also closed on Thursday. In Springfield, Azell M. Cavaan, spokesman for Superintendent Alan J. Ingram said the buildings will be closed while damages are examined. Patrick said he is asking school superintendents to cancel school in affected areas for safety reasons. End of Update.
At 6:20 PM EST a second tornado hit in north Springfield, according to Massachusetts State Police. No further details were immediately available.
The severe weather in the region has been the result of colder air clashing with warm, humid weather coming up from the south that has produced some record temperatures for early June through much of the Mid-Atlantic region, meteorologists said.
A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms that could spawn tornadoes, damaging winds, hail and dangerous lightning, said Charlie Foley, NWS meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts.
Charlie Foley, a National Weather Service Meteorologist was quoted as saying “the atmosphere across most of New England, with the exception of Cape Cod and the islands, is favorable for severe weather,” and went on to add that the “New England region on average, two or three tornadoes per year. They are rare, but not unique.”
The forecast for Thursday, June 2 2011 for the northeast is for noticeably cooler temperatures and less humid weather.
Video of the twister in Springfield, Massachusetts: