Remebering the one-year anniversary of the Springfield tornadoes

Many homes were damaged from the tornadoes that struck parts of Western Massachusetts last year, specifically Springfield. Photo courtesy of Melissa Sieminski

Today is the official start of hurricane season and the one-year anniversary of the tornado outbreak in Western Massachusetts.  Many American Red Cross volunteers were dispatched to the scene. Today they are rembering their experience helping those touched by disaster.

From June 2-27, 2011, American Red Cross volunteer Melissa Sieminski was the Mass Care Chief for the operation at the Pioneer Valley Chapter, which included a total of seven American Red Cross shelters that had more than 5500 overnight stays, feeding operations at the shelters and mobile feeding using 11 Emergency Response Vehicle’s for a total of more than 26,500 meals and 134,000 snacks, bulk distribution of around 40,000 recovery items to the affected communities and family reunification.

“Believe it or not it was a great experience,” she said. “Even the day we had tornado warnings, the sky turned a sickly shade of green and we had to huddle in the hallways of our headquarters wondering if we were going to be the next disaster.”

The New England tornado outbreak occurred on June 1, 2011, in Massachusetts. About 19 communities reported tornado damage with the heaviest damage around Springfield, the third largest city in the state. Red Cross workers responded immediately, assisting area residents as well as the hundreds of emergency responders on the scene. Disaster teams opened shelters throughout the area and are providing food, drinks and emotional support.

In rememberance of the one-year anniversay, the American Red Cross wants people to be prepared – to build a kit, make a plan and be informed.

One of the first things to do when there is a threat of a Hurricane is to get information about the storm.  Listening to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).  Understanding the difference between a Hurricane watch versus a Hurricane warning can help you gauge how long until the storm is upon you. 

A few supplies should be stored in case. Stay prepared by putting together a go bag, including the following items:

  • Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
  • Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)

Talk with members of your household and create an evacuation plan. Planning and practicing your evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.  

If an evacuation is not necessary or more dangerous a few tips could make your experience in the storm much safer.

  • Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (bicycles, lawn furniture).
  • Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood.
  • Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
  • Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.

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