Residents remember deadly Worcester tornado

By R.J. Heim

Before a tornado killed more than 100 people in Joplin, Mo., the other single deadliest tornado dates back more than 60 years.

It happened in Worcester on June 9, 1953.

The storm, which traveled 46 miles, started near Petersham and ended near Southborough.

It cut a path three-quarters of a mile and was on the ground for nearly 50 miles.

"My grandmother was at the door and she said, 'I think, I have a really bad feeling about this. Something really bad is going to happen," said Kathy Lundstrom.

While there was some damage at her dad's house, a couple of streets away, she said the houses were gone.

What was then Assumption College was hit, as were two housing developments.

Lundstrom said her dad got his camera out and filmed the damage right after it happened.

As the tornado continued on its rampage having killed 60 people in one minute in Worcester, it clipped the northern part of Lake Quinsigamond on its way to Shrewsbury.

"My daughter said, 'What is that in the air there Dad?' I said, 'It looked like all things falling down, but this thing's going up!' And it wasn't seconds after that, I seen everything going up into it. So I told my children and my mother to get down the cellar quick. We got to the cellar, but we just about made it. Then boom, all of a sudden, look up and there's no house. Sky is there," said George Alexander, who survived the storm.

Most affected didn't know what had hit them. At the time, there was no Doppler radar and no warning.

That day, Alexander came home from work five minutes early.

"I don't know what they would have done if I had not been there. They were all young, and my mother was older. They probably would have gone with it," he said.

"Didn't know what to think. Never heard of tornadoes before, not around here anyway," said Margaret Mawdsley Alexander, George's wife.

In all, 94 people were killed in the Worcester tornado.

It was rare for New England, but as the Alexanders and Lundstrom's grandmother quickly learned, definitely possible.