On June 1, 2011 a “severe” F3 tornado ripped its way across western Massachusetts, gathering strength as it gashed a 39-mile path eastward. The tornado first formed in a low population area of the state and the damage was limited mostly to the forests; however, it continued into several more populated zones as the brown trail churned up the soil before fading out. Particularly noteworthy is how close the supercell thunderstorm comes to Southbridge and Sturbridge, where the Boston Globe reported on how it overturned vehicles near Interstate 84 in Sturbridge at 5:22 p.m. A total of 4 people were killed by the tornado as it reduced homes, schools, and churches to rubble. The image below is courtesy of NASA and shows the destructive path and resulting scar left by the tornado (see key map below as well). The following video shows the tornado in its early phase over Springfield, Massachusetts (Springfield is approximately equal distance to the left of Palmer as Southbridge is to the right of Palmer).
Deadly tornadoes are unusual, but not unheard of, in Massachusetts. In 1953, one of the single deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history struck Worcester, killing 94 people. The vast majority of tornadoes in the world occur in the Tornado Alley region of the United States, although they can occur nearly anywhere in North America. They also occasionally occur in south-central and eastern Asia, the Philippines, northern and east-central South America, Southern Africa, northwestern and southeast Europe, western and southeastern Australia, and New Zealand.