Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Tornado of Springfield: Our Experience

Yesterday afternoon, I left work early and headed home thanks to the hot, humid weather. Chris was at home, so I was looking forward to an afternoon of finishing up household chores like mulching, mowing, laundry, and all that jazz. Maybe get a little sunning in at some point.

I knew there was a tornado watch going on in the Springfield area, but this is fairly common in summer months when we get hot, humid, heavy days. I didn't think much of it. As I left Westfield, the town I work in, I could see the dark clouds coming in. I was a little excited and raced home so I could watch the thunderstorms. I love summer thunderstorms!

Well, obviously, this wasn't your average afternoon summer thunderstorm in western Massachusetts. As I pulled into the driveway, the rain started. With reports of 2" diameter hail in the area, I pulled my truck into the garage to minimize damage.

The hail promptly came down along with the rain, but we just figured it was a pretty rough thunderstorm. We were a little worried, but not too bad. Phone calls started to come in while Chris and I were watching the weather. While we were watching the news reports, they announced they had video of a tornado touching down in West Springfield and crossing the Connecticut River.

As soon as I saw that video, I panicked. That video was shot less than 4 miles away from us, and we live directly east of it. Chris and I looked at each other (we were both on the phone with people who were worried about us) and hung up our phones. I grabbed a cat, some candles, and some matches. Chris grabbed a cat and we went downstairs.

I had worried about a situation like this for years. The cats have always been my main concern, as they don't exactly go into their carriers when you want them to. We ended up giving up on the carriers and just letting them run wild in the basement, a place where they are never permitted to go. They didn't like it very much at all. Ringo did that deep, upset cat cry the entire time, freaking out the other 2 cats.

The first storm that contained the Springfield tornado passed our house without incident. The news said the tornado started in the town I work in (Westfield), and it looked like it did some damage on the south side of town, through the suburbs. The tornado passed just south of our house by a few miles, they say. Just a few blocks away, there's some major damage, but we're not sure which storm caused it.

After we emerged from the cellar from the first storm, we were exhausted. The sun came out and we figured we were in the clear until we looked at the doppler on the news. There was more on the way, and in a hurry. We didn't think much of those either, since no tornado warning was posted this time. I took some time before the rain started back up to walk to the corner and observe the traffic. The major street just a block away was a parking lot and no one was moving.

We were out in the front yard watching the clouds move in for the second round and our neighbor, who was walking down the street, told us to "get inside," and that there was more on the way. I asked why he was taking a stroll around the block, and he said he had to park his car about 2 miles down the road and run home because he has 3 dogs in his house who he was very concerned about for the second round of storms. He told us that the traffic was awful, and that there was a lot of damage down the street, that he saw the tornado tear through East Longmeadow and "take off" as he put it.

In between checking the news and looking at the sky, I got a funny feeling on my arms. Some people may call me a lunatic for this, but honestly, it's the only reason I started to panic, the feeling was so overwhelming. There was a distinct electrical kind of feeling in the air, an alternating hot then cold then hot and back to cold sensation on my skin. It was alarming. I decided to look outside. There were some pretty serious clouds that had a discoloration to them hanging all around us. I immediately started to cry. In my defense, I had already had a kind of shit day, and this was only making things worse.

I got Chris to round up the cats with me again and we head back down into the cellar. This time, I was scared. The sky outside the house was really weird looking and unfamiliar, and the trees were whipping around something awful. We had a little radio down there in the cellar and while I was looking out the window, they mentioned that there was a funnel cloud at one of the intersections nearby. Very nearby. I start bawling, convinced a tornado is going to whip everything I love and care for out of my hands. EDIT: Looks like there were two very nearby! The video below is to the southwest of us by a few blocks.

Luckily, it passed. All of it passed right over our house, leaving no evidence of it having ever been there. They're saying that you can look at one side of the road and see devastation and destruction, but on the other side, nothing at all. They say this is common for tornadoes. How strange.

It was the most horrifying experience I've ever had, weather-wise. I've never been so scared, so worried, and so exhausted by the weather. Houses were decimated. Buildings downtown collapsed. Memorial Bridge held up (the bridge you seen in that really popular video), which is kind of amazing. That thing is so old.

We're grateful to be safe and sound, and without any damage to our property. It was a close call. My workplace seems to be unscathed as well, which I was also worried about. Last I heard, there were 4 confirmed deaths from this tornado, which is really awful. This is not a common thing to happen in New England, so I doubt anyone expected this.

But on the brighter side, the city of Springfield is doing a fantastic job of cleaning up, clearing out, and getting everything back into place. The community really came together, and it's heartening.

This video was shot within 5 minutes walking distance of our home, off of the major street we live on:


Tasha said...

So scary. But I'm glad you guys are all okay.

Nicole said...

I am so glad you are okay! How frightening!
I watch the video of the tornado that sucked up the river water as it went. It made me anxious just to see it on video. I can't imagine being just down the road from it all.

Take care!

Michelle said...

How terrifying. Glad that you are safe and well.

knitinsage said...

oh my heavens! i'm glad you came through it ok!

your description was very vivid.