The tornado in Joplin, Missouri has drawn comparisons to the one that ripped through our area in 1953 killing 90 people, including three right here in Southborough. I know many of you are familiar with this chapter in Southborough’s history, but I suspect some of you are not.
The powerful tornado first touched down in rural Petersham on June 7, 1953 at approximately 4:25 pm. It moved eastward at an estimated 35 mph, growing to 1-mile wide as it hit the city of Worcester. The tornado killed 60 people in Worcester alone and destroyed much of Assumption College. From there it moved through Shrewsbury and Westborough.
The tornado’s final stop was Southborough. This excerpt from Richard Noble’s Fences of Stone: A History of Southborough, Massachusetts tells the tale.
Winds reaching speeds of up to four hundred miles an hour tore along just south of Route 9, as the tornado hit Parkerville, Middle, Mount Vickery, Woodland, Cordaville, and Breakneck Hill roads in Southborough. The twister then moved east, through Fayville. At the Post Office there, in the ground floor of his home, Postmaster James J. Trioli heard a terrible noise – “like a whole bunch of trains” – and thought it was a hurricane. He sent his family down to the cellar, but as he started down the basement stairs, the tornado struck the house, and the building began to tear apart. His wife started up to help him, but the staircase collapsed and she was killed. Then the house fell in.
Postmaster Trioli was rescued from his home, but later died of his injuries. Another Fayville man died in his home. Much of Davco Farm on Breakneck Hill Road was destroyed.
“We were in the front part of the house when the tornado came in from the back (from the west),” Southborough resident Alice Phillipo told the Metrowest Daily News back in 2009. “When the thing came through, we could see some of the pieces of wood from people’s houses flying through the yard. We found pieces from somebody’s doghouse, and a chicken coop landed in our backyard.”
Any of you out there remember the Worcester Tornado of 1953? Or maybe you’ve heard the stories from those who lived through it? Share your memories in the comments.