June 1, 2011: Springfield in Nature’s Crosshairs

On June 1, 2011 a series of three tornadoes ripped through Western Massachusetts, and included the second strongest tornado ever recorded in Massachusetts, with wind speeds estimated at 136 to 165 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The most severe tornado was the EF-3, on the Enhanced Fujita Damage Classification Scale, that carved a half-mile-wide path for 39 miles from Westfield to Charlton, killing three people and injuring 200.

The main path of the storm followed a track through the city of Springfield, MA impacting many of its neighborhoods including the South End, Six Corners, Old Hill, Upper Hill, East Forest Park and Sixteen Acres neighborhoods. The tornado resulted in major damage to city infrastructure including many buildings and dwellings, power lines, and public shade trees. In the neighborhoods of Springfield affected by the storms, damage to the street trees was extensive, destroying or severely damaging many of the public trees growing in these areas.

The Tornado has left a mark on the City of Springfield that will take many years to erase. This is no more evident than with the loss of the tree resource within the impact zone. The landscape will never be the same as before the storm and it will take many years to recover the canopy cover lost in some areas. While this loss is a tragedy, with reforestation efforts and proper management, the urban forest in these areas can be healthier than it ever has been. There is a great opportunity to apply the latest knowledge and professional practices of urban forestry to ensure healthy and vigorous trees will once again line the streets of the neighborhoods affected.

With your help, Springfield will be able to regreen the devastated neighborhoods and restore its urban forest canopy. Please join in the effort by planting a tree in your own yard, helping to plant trees along our streets and in our parks, or donate your time or funds to neighborhood regreening efforts.  With your help, Springfield’s urban forest will be restored… one tree at a time.

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