The Sutton-Northbridge-Mendon Tornado of 1953

(This post was created in 2011 but runs each year on June 9 to remind residents of the Blackstone Valley what can happen when conditions for severe weather are perfect- Zack Green)

It was 58 years ago this month that a large and devastating tornado struck Worcester, MA.  A complex of storms moved east into New England on June 9, 1953 after dropping an F5 tornado on Flint, Michigan that killed 116 people.  That was the most people killed in a tornado until the catastrophic F5 tornado that destroyed Joplin, MO last month.  The Worcester tornado ripped through the Burncoat neighborhood of Worcester and produced extreme damage.  Though it was classified as an F4, on the new enhanced tornado Fujita scale it would likely have been an EF-5.  Regardless, 94 people were killed in Worcester as their was literally no warning.  The storm struck just as people were returning home from work.  The combination of the Flint-Worcester tornadoes lead to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK to change its policies and focus more on radar detection of tornadoes.  A spotter network was also implemented to help warn people in advance of these killer twisters.  There was also another tornado that struck that day, but due to the shear destruction of the Worcester twister this storm often (rightfully) goes overlooked.

Just like the Springfield tornadoes of June 1, 2011, a supercell complex formed in the late afternoon hours of a warm muggy day.  Besides the main tornado, a second funnel touched down in West Millbury near Lake Singletary.  The twister moved down Route 146 passing near Pleasant Valley and destroying a home before crossing over the highway and heading towards Armsby Road and then Leland Hill where the Calmer Farm suffered complete damage.  The storm totaled another farm just down the road where nearly 3000 chickens were said to have "disappeared" when the tornado passed.  People in Foxboro reported seeing chicken carcasses falling out of the sky.  Having found debris from the Springfield/Brimfield tornado in Northbridge this was probably true.



The tornado left Sutton and headed into Northbridge, arriving at the Adams five corners.  The storm took a right onto Hill Street ripping the roofs off several houses before turning towards Kelley Road.  A home on Kelley road was found to have been lifted off its foundation and thrown several feet.  Amazingly the house was in still in one piece and it was put back on its foundation.  Moving back towards Hill Street the twister caused heavy damage to Adam's Dairy farm before heading towards Fowler Road and then the Riverdale Neighborhood, which is where I happen to grow up (Paul Place, Delmar Drive, Jon Circle, Suzanne Drive etc).  The storm then moved across Providence Road towards the Blackstone River and caused severe damage at the Riverdale Mills where it ripped off the tower.  The storm moved towards Mendon before  dissipation.

This twister was an F3 storm and caused no major injuries and no deaths.  The damage was widespread, but Northbridge was not as densely populated in 1953 as it is today.  Central Massachusetts is known in meteorological circles as the "Tornado Alley" east of the Appalachains.  Meteorological conditions have to be perfect, but they can happen.  
Thank you to the Sutton Historical Society for a very detailed account of the storm.


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