Between Connecticut and Massachusetts, on one side of the border or the other, there are usually four tornadoes a year. Some suggest the border is a low-grade, tornado alley. The storms usually are weak. Some years are exceptional.
Like this year.
At about 4:30 p.m. on June 1, seven tornadoes touched down in the greater Springfield area. They danced along the Connecticut River, tore down hillsides, peeled the exteriors off buildings, shredded trees and destroyed the center of Monson, Mass.
"I've never been so terrified in my whole life." James Weissbach of Monson said at the time.
The western-most storm landed in Westfield, Mass. Collectively, the seven raced east toward Sturbridge. The storms left four dead, two in Westfield, one in West Springfield and one in Brimfield. Among them were a mother shielding her child in a bathtub and a pedestrian plucked off Memorial Bridge, which spans the Connecticut River between Springfield and West Springfield.
One storm was captured on a video recording as it crossed the river before tearing through downtown Springfield. It stopped traffic on I-91, knocked down thousands of trees and damaged hundreds of houses.
There was damage in 19 towns, which also were pelted with hail, some the size of golf balls, and drenched by thunderstorms. The more powerful of the two storms in Springfield landed at 4:32 p.m.
Monson, halfway between Springfield and Sturbridge and fewer than 10 miles north of Stafford, Conn., was particularly hard hit. A tornado slashed down from a ridgeline and raced to the west end of Main Street, where it proceeded to tear up trees, knock the steeples from two churches, and ruin the IGA, the Town Hall and several houses.
"I saw it come up over the mountain," said Anthony Donato, who was working at Monson Pizza at the time. "The wind was blowing. I saw chunks of roofs come off."
Among the other tornadoes along the border:
In 1953, a storm in Worcester claimed 94 lives and injured 1,300. The whirlwind sucked up mattresses and frosted them in ice before depositing them in Boston Harbor.
In 1979, a tornado touched down in Windsor Locks for less than one minute. Short duration notwithstanding, the storm killed three, injured 300, tossed around 11 aircraft at the Bradley Air Museum and destroyed 40 houses.
In 1989, a tornado caused extensive property damage in Bantam. It cut a swath through the woods that still can be seen from the air.