Neha Patil (Editor)

Flint–Worcester tornado outbreak sequence

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Type  Tornado outbreak
Tornadoes confirmed  46
Duration of tornado outbreak  3 days
Damage  2.56 billion USD
Duration  June 7–9, 1953
Max rating  F5 tornado
Start date  June 8, 1953
Flint–Worcester tornado outbreak sequence iimgurcom1LGJTrIjpg
Casualties  245 fatalities, Unknown amount of injuries
Similar  1953 Flint–Beecher tornado, 1953 Worcester tornado, 1953 Waco tornado outbreak, 1932 Deep South tornado o, 1955 Great Plains tornado o

Weather History: 1953 Flint-Worcester Tornado Outbreak

The 1953 Flint–Worcester tornado outbreak sequence was a devastating tornado outbreak sequence spanning three days, two of which featured tornadoes each causing at least 90 deaths—an F5 occurring in Flint, Michigan, on June 8, 1953, and an F4 in Worcester, Massachusetts, on June 9. These tornadoes are among the deadliest in United States history and were caused by the same storm system that moved eastward across the nation. The tornadoes are also related together in the public mind because, for a brief period following the Worcester tornado, it was debated in the U.S. Congress whether recent atomic bomb testing in the upper atmosphere had caused the tornadoes. Congressman James E. Van Zandt (R-Penn.) was among several members of Congress who expressed their belief that the June 4th bomb testing created the tornadoes, which occurred far outside the traditional tornado alley. They demanded a response from the government. Meteorologists quickly dispelled such an assertion, and Congressman Van Zandt later retracted his statement.


The Flint-Worcester Tornadoes were the most infamous storms produced by a larger outbreak of severe weather that began in Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin, before moving across the Great Lakes states, and then into New York and New England. Other F3 and F4 tornadoes struck other locations in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire and Ohio.

Confirmed tornadoes

Flint?Worcester tornado outbreak sequence Flint?Worcester tornado outbreak sequence

This chart shows the number of tornadoes spawned from the initial storm system.

Flint tornado

An F5 tornado hit Flint, Michigan on June 8, 1953. The tornado moved east-northeast 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Flushing and devastated the north side of Flint and Beecher. The tornado first descended about 8:30 p.m. on a humid evening near a drive-in movie theater that was flickering to life at twilight time. Motorists in the drive-in began to flee in panic, creating many auto accidents on nearby roads. The tornado dissipated near Lapeer, Michigan. Nearly every home was destroyed on both sides of Coldwater Road. Multiple deaths were reported in 20 families, and it was reported that papers from Flint were deposited in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, some sixty miles east of Flint. Large sections of neighborhoods were completely swept away, with only foundations left. Trees were debarked and vehicles were thrown and mangled. One hundred and sixteen were killed, making it the tenth deadliest tornado in U.S. history. The death toll was surpassed by the 2011 Joplin tornado. It is also one of only two F5 tornadoes ever to hit in Michigan. Another F5 would hit in Hudsonville on April 3, 1956.

Worcester tornado

The storm system that created the Flint tornado moved eastward over southern Ontario and Lake Erie during the early morning hours of June 9. As radar was still primitive (or nonexistent) in 1953, inadequate severe weather predictions resulted. (Even during the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, weather radar was still not up to this task; that outbreak resulted in a technological upgrade.) The Weather Bureau in Buffalo, New York merely predicted thunderstorms and said that "a tornado may occur." As early as 10 A.M., however, the Weather Bureau in Boston anticipated the likelihood of tornadic conditions that afternoon but feared the word "tornado" would strike panic in the public, and refrained from using it. Instead, as a compromise, they issued New England's first-ever severe thunderstorm watch.

Rain fell across Worcester County throughout the day on June 9. In New York, a strong cluster of thunderstorms began to build, moving eastward into Massachusetts. At approximately 4:25 pm (EST), a funnel cloud formed near the Quabbin Reservoir near New Salem. Very soon after, a tornado spawned from the funnel cloud, touching down in a forest outside of the rural community of Petersham. The tornado then proceeded to pass through a farm field, where it struck a farmhouse and killed two people. As the storm moved eastward at approximately 35 mph (58 km/h), it hit the towns of Rutland and Holden, where 11 people were killed in total.(Grazulis, 1993)

At about 5:00 pm, the tornado moved into the city of Worcester, alarming many residents. According to eyewitness accounts, the storm moved in extremely quickly, shocking the townsfolk. "I saw it grow noticeably darker," said eyewitness George Carlson, "Then it hit. Houses tumbled, trees fell, and it was all over. The tornado was definitely discernible. Like when you can see the lines of rain in an approaching rainstorm," he added. The tornado, which had grown to a mile (1.6 km) wide, destroyed several structures in Northern Worcester, including parts of Assumption College. Other major structures included a newly built factory and a large residential development. Residential areas were devastated, where entire rows of homes swept away at possible F5 intensity.

The funnel maintained its 1-mile width as it passed throughout much of Shrewsbury, and still did a high amount of damage when it moved through downtown Westborough, where it began curving towards the northeast in its final leg. In the storm's final moments, 3 were killed when Fayville Post Office in Southborough collapsed. Around the time it ended 5:45 pm, a tornado warning was issued, although by then it was too late.

1953 tornado season in perspective

The year 1953 saw some of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, including the Waco Tornado that hit on May 11, the Flint tornado of June 8, and the Worcester tornado on June 9. These 3 storms were also unique in occurring within a 30-day period.

Other severe tornadoes of 1953 hit Warner Robins, Georgia in April, San Angelo, Texas in May (same day as Waco), Port Huron, Michigan also in May, Cleveland in June (same day as Flint), and Vicksburg, Mississippi in December.


Flint–Worcester tornado outbreak sequence Wikipedia