Storm Update

Friday, June 3, 2011, 15:17 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

There has been remarkably little new information in the wake of Wednesday’s severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in central and western Massachusetts. The death toll remains at four, with no one left unaccounted for, so that’s good. I expected more victims to be found as search crews launched recovery operations. More than 200 people were injured, though I don’t know if any are in serious condition. In a bit of good news for sports fans, the Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Springfield not far from where a tornado crossed the Connecticut river, was not damaged, though that is no comfort to those who lost homes or loved ones.

Despite the mercifully low death toll, news coverage has been significant. Fox News did lots of interviews with people affected by the storms and shows some video taken by people who was the tornado that hit Springfield. Salon had an article yesterday about the “rare Massachusetts tornadoes,” which also has video. The UK’s Daily Telegraph repeated the “rare” meme. As I have mentioned recently, it isn’t that tornadoes themselves are all that rare around here; it’s the severity, damage, and loss of life that is rare.

This list from the Tornado Project documents 147 tornadoes in the state between 1950 and 1995 (inclusive), just over three per year on average. But only six of them were fatal: 1953 (94 dead in the Worcester County tornado I wrote about a couple of weeks ago), 1970 (1 dead), 1972 (1), 1973 (4), 1979 (2 dead in the tornado the Den Brother survived), and 1995 (3). There were injuries but no deaths in 22 more tornadoes during that time span. Some might be surprised that ten of the tornadoes listed were classified as F3 and two as F4, although some experts maintain that the 1953 Worcester tornado actually might have been an F5. Notice also that Worcester County had more tornadoes than any other county, almost 25% of the total, which is due to a combination of the fact that it is the geographically largest county in the state and also has a greater propensity for formation of twisters. MassLive.com provides additional information about the state’s tornado history, including a link to a map on the Washington Post web site that shows the average annual number of tornadoes in each U.S. state. Massachusetts averages more tornadoes per unit area than the other five New England states, New York, and Pennsylvania.

I must say that I’m surprised by the amount of international coverage these storms have received. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ran a story on Wednesday evening and followed up the next day. The Telegraph, in addition to the article cited above, carried a follow-up story yesterday that noted Gov. Deval Patrick’s declaration of a state of emergency. The story also made news in Australia, Germany, and Italy. It seems the old media adage is true: if it bleeds, it leads.

On a different topic, thanks to the reader who emailed to inquire about the status of my stair-fall injuries. I have aches and pains I didn’t notice yesterday. My hip is killing me, my upper back and right wrist are sore, and the bruise across my rear end contains colors not ordinarily seen in nature. I still feel like a fool. But I have learned to be more careful and use the railings, so my discomfort and embarrassment aren’t in vain.

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