Summertime with warm temperatures, high humidity and clashing air masses provide the ingredients for severe weather. Thunderstorms, heavy rain and lightning can cause structure damage/fires, downed trees and localized flooding. In severe cases tornadoes can be spawned. Tornado strength is measured by the Fujita (F0-F5) Scale. The devastating F5 tornado exceeds wind speed of 260 miles per hour.
Tornadoes are one of nature's most violent storms. Tornados have occurred in Worcester County several times before. Most notably, a 1953 Tornado left behind a path of destruction within the City of Worcester and was the cause of 94 fatalities. A June 2011 tornado left a path of destruction in places west of the City of Worcester. Although tornadoes can occur at any time, peak months in the northern states are during the summer.
Fortunately with improved weather instrumentation warning time for tornadoes has improved significantly, but time is still short to seek shelter. Being prepared enhances your chances of surviving this type of natural disaster. Most important is listening to local news stations and/or local officials for severe weather watches and warnings.
Conditions of an impending tornado include an eerie stillness, greenish sky, pressure drop and hail. Most commonly an approaching tornado sounds like a roaring train.
When a Tornado Warning is Issued
Seek shelter immediately.
Go to the lowest level in a home or low-lying area if you cannot get to a shelter; a basement is recommended.
Seek an interior space, away from windows if possible. A sturdy tub in a bathroom is an alternative if you cannot find an interior, lower level room. Cover yourself inside of the tub with a mattress if one is easily accessible.
Remain inside for the duration of the storm. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio and television stations for updates and an official "all clear."
Additional Summertime Risks
Extreme heat is a dangerous weather event that can negatively impact a person's health. Because heat causes the body to lose water at a greater rate, it is important to avoid strenuous activity and increase water intake during a heat related weather event. For more information, please review our Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness (24KB).
The height of fire season comes with the driest period of the summer months. To protect yourself and your property from wildfires, clean away all brush and trash within a minimum of 30 feet from your home.
Structure fires can be prevented through tips from the City of Worcester Fire Department's Fire Prevention Division.
Additionally, during summertime thunderstorms, it is important to find cover. If you hear thunder or see lightning, try to get indoors or inside of a hard topped vehicle. If you cannot, remember to avoid tall objects such as trees and radio towers, as well as any metal objects that will conduct electricity. Remember:
- There are no safe outdoor places during a thunderstorm.
- Fatalities from lightning strikes occur most frequently in the evening during the warm spring and summer months.
- The air channel the lightning passes through can reach temperatures in excess of 50,000°F! This temperature is hotter than the surface of the sun. The rapid cooling of the air near the lightning channel causes a shock wave that results in the sound we know as "thunder."