Massachusetts Had the First-Ever Recorded Tornado in America
Tornadoes no doubt predate what we now refer to as Massachusetts on the North American continent, but the first "whirl-wind," as they were called back in the day, was recorded right here in Massachusetts.
As we recently told you, tornadoes, while not commonplace, do happen in New England with some regularity.
Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop was known to keep a journal containing weather information in the 1630s and '40s.
On July 15, 1643, according to New England Storm Center's Timothy Dennis, Winthrop wrote, "There arose a sudden gust at N.W. so violent for half an hour as it blew down multitudes of trees. It lifted up their meeting house at Newbury, the people being in it."
The entry continued, "It darkened the air with dust, yet through God's great mercy, it did no hurt, but only killed one Indian with the fall of a tree."
Winthrop concluded, "It was straight through Linne [modern-day Lynn] and Hampton."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the Winthrop entry, but some believe Governor Winthrop may have actually witnessed a downburst rather than a tornado.
There is a record of a whirl-wind in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 5, 1680. TornadoTim.com says, "Rev. Increase Mather tells in his Remarkable Providences of eyewitness accounts of this terrible whirling wind."
The site says, "One eyewitness, Samuel Stone, described it as a whirl-wind that tore tees, sucked up hay, tore off a large portion of a barn roof, and made a singing noise so very loud that the people around could not hear the falling objects."
Another witness, Matthew Bridge, reported that "its motion was continually circular, tearing bushes by the roots, removing old trees, and sucking up large rocks that were not found again," according to the website.
Timothy Dennis says meteorologist and tornado historian Thomas Grazulis believes the Cambridge event was the first "confirmed true tornado in the United States." Grazulis documents the event as occurring on July 5, 1680, not July 8, as stated above.
That the first tornadoes were recorded in Massachusetts has less to do with the weather and everything to do with the fact that this was among the first areas settled by the Europeans who kept such records.
Native Americans, who predated the Europeans in areas where tornadoes are more common, left little information about weather events.