Witness: Worcester tornado 'just like an atom bomb'

Joe Joseph traveled from Woonsocket with his wife and their 1-year-old daughter on June 9, 1953 to visit his mother-in-law who lived in Westborough.

Dinner was being prepared, so they were all sitting out front on the warm humid late afternoon.

"That thing got bigger and bigger. I saw gas pumps, cars in the air. I said, 'What the heck?' Houses blown off their foundation, people screaming," Joseph said.

The EF4 tornado, which at times was a mile wide with winds more than 200 mph, had already been on the ground for about an hour. It was moving at nearly 35 mph.

"Like an express train, right though," Joseph said.

The storm slammed into Assumption College in Worcester and killed dozens on its 48 mile rampage that lasted 90 minutes.

"My mother-in-law, right away, she's praying. She's a very religious woman. She's saying, 'Oh, thank God it passed us,'" Joseph said.

Joseph was in the Army and stationed in Japan shortly after the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. He said the damage caused by the Worcester tornado was worse.

"It was just like an atom bomb. It reminded me, going through the place, you could see the damage for miles. Just like the damage out there. I said, it was bringing back memories. It followed me all the way from Japan back to Westborough," Joseph said.

After seeing the damage first hand, Joseph said whenever there are tornado watches issued, he takes them seriously, knowing that while they are rare in Massachusetts, they can still happen.