Unwelcome encore

Storms’ similar patterns merely coincidence, specialists say

Anthony Trikas of Ludlow (left) and Barry Delamarter of Wilbraham cut up a fallen tree that crushed a friend’s boat in Wilbraham. Anthony Trikas of Ludlow (left) and Barry Delamarter of Wilbraham cut up a fallen tree that crushed a friend’s boat in Wilbraham. (Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe)
By Neena Satija
Globe Correspondent / July 28, 2011

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No, tornado alley is not settling into Central and Western Massachusetts.

But when the region was thrashed on Tuesday by a pounding storm, less than two months after tornadoes swept through, it was easy to think that Oklahoma’s misery had relocated to the Bay State.

In reality, that swath of Massachusetts has been subject to a temporary weather pattern that has left it vulnerable to spasms of violent weather.

“I think it’s just happenstance,’’ said Charlie Foley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Taunton office. “It’s just, you know, the variables of weather. . . . Weather patterns change all the time.’’

Springfield, Wilbraham, and the surrounding areas occupy a battle zone between warm and cold air masses that has locked in place for months, contributing to the deadly tornadoes in June and the heavy thunderstorms Tuesday night.

Hot and moist waves of air from the southwest are constantly colliding with colder, drier air from Canada, producing severe weather in Massachusetts, said New England Cable News meteorologist Matt Noyes. And until that changes, the storms may continue.

“We’re seeing pretty much a continuation of the same weather pattern here in the Northeast,’’ Noyes said. “As long as this pattern persists, we should be in the mind-set to see continued severe weather right through August.’’

Tuesday’s storm killed an 85-year-old man riding his motorcycle in Hinsdale, near Pittsfield, when his motorcycle crashed into a fallen tree that was entangled in power lines.

A National Weather Service team yesterday surveyed damage from Wilbraham to Springfield’s Indian Orchard neighborhood. They determined the storms were “straight line’’ winds rather than the rotating winds characteristic of tornadoes.

But while the damage those communities faced was far less than in June, it was still severe. The entire town of Wilbraham lost power.

Wilbraham town administrator Robert Weitz said public property damages and cleanup costs there could range from $800,000 to $1 million. Minnechaug Regional High School suffered roof damage, though the opening of school in the fall will not be delayed. The building that houses the town’s public access channel was also damaged, Weitz said.

Tricia Farley-Bouvier, spokeswoman for Mayor James M. Ruberto of Pittsfield, said public property damages were estimated at more than $100,000, mainly because of the cost of removing trees from public roads.

“Whole trees came up right out of their roots,’’ she said. She said a few people also had to be rescued when trees fell on their cars, but no one was seriously injured.

Farley-Bouvier said private property damages will be far higher, though she could not provide an estimate last night. Felled trees took a heavy toll on two privately operated cemeteries in the city, and trees damaged many homeowners’ fences.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Neena Satija can be reached at