Hey That's Not Supposed To Happen Here

The other day while riding with my cousin to a funeral, we were discussing the weather throughout the country and how we were pretty lucky here, because we don’t have the extreme weather other parts of the country. We can’t say that after yesterday as we were hit by at least two separate tornadoes, which killed at least four people.

I have a lot of thoughts about these storms now that they are over and the various news crews are showing pictures of the devastation. As I write this I haven’t yet seen the damage done to my town although I here there is some major damage throughout the area. This will be the first of a series of posts on these storms, as I said, now that they are done, I have had many thoughts about the whole process.

I was home at the little house on the lake. The forecast had called for severe thunderstorms, but I knew nothing of the tornadoes. I left work in Worcester a little after three PM and headed west. I had the radio on and was listening to the Red Sox who were playing a day game. As I headed west I didn’t see anything unusual in the sky, I don’t even recall seeing any clouds.

When I arrived at home, I went in the house and turned on the television, intending to watch the last of the ball game. It was about 3:45 and the channel which came on the television had the weatherperson and he was saying there were tornado warnings for the area. According to him, one could hit where I live in 22 minutes. Now, you have to understand something about most of us who live in New England. We here all these reports of this severe weather, we have warnings and watches, but nothing usually happens. Mostly we just get high winds and heavy rain. Looking outside, the sky was a light grey, nothing unusual and I could hear thunder in the distance.

I have lived in the little house on the lake for the last eleven years, prior to that it was our family’s summer home, so I have seen 54 years of storms. You learn to tell what will happen by watching and listening. I am on the east side of the lake, therefore most storms come from the west, wither directly west, or from the southwest or northwest. If you listen to the thunder, you can tell where it is coming from and usually how far away it is. There is some calculation where you count how many seconds between the lightning and the thunder and you know how far away it is, the closer the two are, the nearer the storm. There was no visible lightning, but the thunder was a ways off. The storm was coming from the southwest.

I had the laptop up and running and was checking my email when the weather dude said the storm was now 44 minutes away and there was a confirmed tornado in Westfield. Being the skeptical guy I am, first, I thought it odd the time changed, and second, I have heard reports of tornado sightings before, and they have never been anything. So, needless to say, I figured this would be no different. But it was.

The rain began about 4:30, and I lost my satellite TV. The dog began to get very antsy and whimpering and barking. The hail began shortly thereafter, small in size, then eventually becoming about the size of golf balls. The power went out at 5:15. That was when I realized something unusual, after all the years and storms I realized something was missing, there was no wind. It was raining and there was sleet but it was perfectly still, dead still in fact. The lake, while not like glass, was not choppy. When I realized how still it was, that is when I decided it was time for a little prayer, this wasn’t right.

I found out later, this was when the first tornado hit in Brimfield, which is to the west of me, where I was hearing the thunder. As soon as it started, it was over, but not for long. The second one was on the way. The second storm was to the northwest, this one had the wind, it was coming from the north. There was vivid lightning, one or two may have hit the house, or damn close to it. There was no rain so I quickly went outside to make sure the house wasn’t on fire. Note to self: Don’t go outside when there is lightning overhead. A bolt hit the lake right behind me, I decided it was time to come in. There was heavy rain, thunder, wind and lightning. This was more the storms I am used to.

Tonya called and she was trying to get home, but was stuck in Brimfield. She said the road was closed, at the same time my son called and said he heard a tornado touched down in Brimfield. The second storm stopped, but there was still thunder all around, one right after another, again very unusual.

Power was restored about 10 PM, but it wasn’t until this morning that I learned how bad it really had been. There may have been two separate tornadoes in Sturbridge, one to the south of me and one to the north, both sides of me, but neither touched me. And that is when I started asking questions, questions I’ll try to answer in my next post. For now, I have to say,  I guess it wasn’t my turn to have to deal with an act of God, another test, and I am thankful for that. 
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2 Responses to this post

  1. Big Mark 243 on June 3, 2011 at 12:18 AM

    Having grown up in the Midwest I have grown accustomed to tornado watches and warnings. I live in a suburb west of Detroit where tornadoes seem to spring up out of the ground. I'd bet the change in air pressure accounted for the 'calm before the storm' you were observing.

    I am glad that you and your loved ones did not get hurt and yes, the next time you hear about a tornado in the area STAY IN. A couple of years ago a tornado touched down in my neighborhood and I happened to be on my bike in the streets at a branch library. When I decided to head for home, the sky had that 'look' and I stayed at the library. The storm struck and for 15 minutes it looked as if the sky opened up so someone could pour water on the city. Then it ended, just as quietly as it started.

    On my way home I had to dodge tree branches and all manner of debris. Then I turned into the subdivision I shared with the Mooks and man, devastation! Fortunately, due to the quirkiness of tornadoes, our wing of the subdivision was spared. The folks on the eastern edge, eh, not so much.

    While your storm was more fluky (or it could be global warming... you never say never, cause you KNOW it just might be that!), the NEXT set of warning, be careful and take cover.


  2. I'm Just Musing on June 3, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    Thanks for your thoughts Mark. What was interesting about this storm, was the sky never did get "funky". I have always heard that would happen, which is why I thought a tornado was not coming. The other thing is here in New England you really don't have any kind of "line of sight" there are too many trees and hills.

    On my way home from work, I drove through some of the areas which were hit, and realized one of the two which came through my town was less than a mile from me.

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