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How frequent are tornadoes in Massachusetts?

Thousands of miles from America’s so-called “tornado alley,” Massachusetts is still threatened by tornadoes each year.

Most of the twisters are minor, causing property damage of less than $50,000. Yet, severe — and in some cases deadly — tornadoes touch down here occasionally.

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A tornado touched down in Worcester late Sunday, a little over a month after another tornado hit the cities of Revere, Chelsea, and Everett in July, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

How often do tornadoes make landfall in Massachusetts?

Tornadoes are rare but not unheard of in Massachusetts. According to data collected by the Tornado History Project, 159 were recorded in Massachusetts between 1950 and 2013. That’s an average of nearly three tornadoes per year.

The prevalence of the dangerous storms has declined significantly since the mid-20th century. The National Climatic Data Center reported that 2013 was the slowest tornado year since 1989.

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The National Weather Service predicts Massachusetts will have one strong-to-violent tornado each year. To date, the state has seen 50 strong-to-violent tornadoes, seven of which were deadly.

Catherine Cloutier/Globe Staff

Where do tornadoes strike in Massachusetts?

Tornadoes are more prevalent in the western part of Massachusetts, particularly the counties that border New York and Connecticut. With 41 tornadoes, Worcester County had the highest number of since 1950, when the government began keeping records.

Catherine Cloutier/Globe Staff

By contrast, three counties on Cape Cod and the islands (Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket) saw only four tornadoes during that time period.

July’s twister was the first in at least 64 years for Suffolk County, which comprises Revere, Boston, Chelsea, and Winthrop.

IN REVERE: Residents say tornado was brief, destructive

And in the United States?

In 2013, two tornadoes touched down in Massachusetts, one in Norfolk County that caused about $20,000 in damages and another in Franklin County with no reported damage. Neither storm caused fatalities or injuries.

Massachusetts’ count placed it among the lowest nationwide. Higher numbers of tornadoes were seen in the Midwest and Southwest, otherwise known as “tornado alley.” The state with the greatest number of tornadoes in 2013 was, unsurprisingly, Oklahoma.

Catherine Cloutier/Globe Staff

Massachusetts’ rate of about 1.9 tornadoes per 10,000 miles, however, ranked it 28th of the 43 states affected by tornadoes, placing it among the likes of South Dakota, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Nearby Connecticut had the eighth highest rate of tornadoes per 10,000 miles.

How deadly are Massachusetts tornadoes?

One-hundred-thirteen people have been killed by tornadoes in Massachusetts since 1950. Nearly 1,600 others have suffered tornado-related injuries.

Four tornadoes stand out in Massachusetts history as the most devastating.

AP Photo

June 9, 1953: The Great Worcester Tornado killed 94 and injured more than 1,200 as it cut across central Massachusetts. The tornado touched down in Petersham, then travelled through Barre, Rutland, Holden, Worcester, Shrewsbury, Westborough, and Southborough before hitting Worcester and Shrewsbury.


August 28, 1973: A tornado touched down in West Stockbridge and leveled a truck stop on Route 102, killing four people and injuring 40.


May 29, 1995: Three people died and at least 24 were hurt when a tornado hit Great Barrington. In less than 10 minutes, the twister moved from Columbia County, N.Y. into Egremont, Great Barrington and Monterey.

Essdras M Suarez/The Boston Globe

June 1, 2011: Three people died in the most destructive tornado to hit New England in 60 years. With winds up to 160 mph, the storm tore a quarter-mile gash into Springfield and also hit Monson (above) hard.

Andy Rosen of Globe Staff contributed to this report. Catherine Cloutier can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @cmcloutier.
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