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Recalling the Tornado of June 1, 2011 in Southbridge - Dan Butler text and photos



June 1, 2011.....a day that is etched into the history books forever. It started out as such a gorgeous day, sunny, clear blue sky, but very humid. The weather reports that day called for potential severe thunderstorms later in the day. I remember coming home that day around 4pm, traveling south on Route 169 and it was still hot and humid at that point but some clouds had begun to develop to the west. When I walked in the house, I turned the tv on while I was putting groceries away and heard Matt Noyce of NECN giving some ominous warnings about some "possible rotation near Westfield, MA". In the next few minutes, the killer tornado was born. At 4:17pm, a tornado touchdown was confirmed in West Springfield, MA and I'm sure we have all seen the LIVE Tower Cam news footage by now as the tornado swept across the Connecticut River, that was the beginning of the tornado's 39 mile, 1 hour and 10 minute journey east towards Southbridge, MA.

I called my parents in Fiskdale, Massachusetts to warn them of the approaching tornado, they had no idea it was coming. I then called my girlfriend Kristin, who was at work an hour away and said, "Um, I just want to tell you I love you, I think I'm about to get hit by a tornado". Poor Kristin was helpless and could only pray for the best, as did I. I remember at that moment kneeling in front of my couch in the living room and praying for God to "please keep me and my neighbors safe". I then sent out a warning on Facebook to let everyone know that there was in fact a tornado on the ground. After gathering our 5 animals and securing them in the basement I decided to step out back with my camera, hoping that maybe I was just overreacting. It was just after 5pm and it was dark as midnight. I remember hearing what sounded like a rumble of thunder, but it was continuous, the infamous "roar" that everyone hit by a tornado talks about. I knew then my little neighborhood was in big trouble.

At 5:17pm the tornado was visible coming down the hill as it began to tear through the Rosemeade Apartments on the west side of Route. 169 (Worcester Road). I took a few pictures and then frantically sent out a text message to Kristin that said, "IT'S HERE", it's all I had time to type. I ran back into the basement, the lights went out and within seconds the sound was deafening.

At 5:18 PM, as the tornado hit our house on Brookside Road, my ears popped and I felt like someone was squeezing the air out of me. The noise was intense and within seconds I was covered in glass and I was seeing daylight because our bedroom that had been above my head was gone....it was over so fast!

  

I was alive! Almost instantly I thought of my neighbors, specially my neighbor Heather across the street, who I saw pulling into her driveway with her daughter just before the tornado hit. As I ran out the front door to go check on them, I caught one last glimpse of the tornado as it disappeared over the hill on the east side of Charlton Street. By the grace of God, everyone in my neighborhood survived the tornado, which was later classified as an EF3 with winds of 165 MPH. Unfortunately, we would find out later that 3 people to the west of us perished that day, which really hits home as to how lucky all of us really are.

Our house suffered extensive damage and we lost over 40 trees including our beloved apple trees, but things could have been so much worse. Kristin and I finally met up in a neighbor's field, hugging in the pouring rain like some sappy Hollywood movie, but it was all too real. As most of you will recall, we had another tornado warning about an hour later, the sky turned black again and we saw a funnel cloud pass just to our north, but thankfully it never touched down. We have all been effected by the tornado in different ways. We have all dealt with the shock, the depression, the stress, the images burnt into our memories and so on. We all have our own stories of the "Southbridge tornado".

Dan Butler
   

 

Tornado photos from June 2, 2011

Honey Meyer recalls the Tornado

Recollection of Southbridge

Southbridge Page

Whitney Home Page
 

Dick Whitney email: dickwhitney@charter.net