A small tornado touched down in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, late Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service. No injuries were reported and only trees were damaged.
The tornado brought winds of 80 miles per hour to a two-mile long path in the town just before 11 a.m. There were several eye witnesses to the category EF-0 tornado, but none saw an actual funnel, according to the NWS. It was the first tornado to hit Massachusetts in two years.
The tornado came during a day of heavy rain — and some flash floods — across the already waterlogged Northeast.
The heavy rains caused wastewater to flow into local rivers across Massachusetts.
Boston, Fall River and New Bedford in particular saw substantial sewage overflow. These communities have an outdated runoff system called a combined sewer overflow; when there’s excess rain runoff, a mix of sewage and stormwater is discharged into a nearby river or bay.
“An older system like Fall River has — and a lot of other urbanized, older communities — just is unable to handle the amount of water that comes with these high intensity rainstorms,” said Paul Ferland, the Fall River director of community utilities.
At least several million gallons of sewage and stormwater were discharged into the Taunton River and Mount Hope Bay near Fall River over the weekend. Ferland also said parts of the city flooded Sunday, but those waters have since subsided.
Fall River has spent over $200 million to upgrade its sewage and runoff system after a 1992 lawsuit alleged the city violated the Clean Water Act. The city constructed a storage tunnel to hold stormwater until it can be treated, and it also separated some of the stormwater runoff from flowing into sewage lines. The work has improved contamination, but there are remaining combined sewage overflows that yet have to be addressed.
Other communities including Somerville, Lowell, Fitchburg and Haverhill also experienced sewage overflow.
About 90,000 gallons of untreated sewage and waste overflowed along the Green River in Greenfield, too, with local officials citing heavy to moderate rains as the cause.
The Green River and Deerfield River in Greenfield were affected, as well as the Connecticut River in Deerfield, Montague and Sunderland. The mayor's office advised that people avoid contact with the water bodies for 48 hours after the discharge ceases to avoid health risks from bacteria and pollutants.
Vermont, which was hit hard by flooding last week, experienced another round of heavy rain on Sunday. Authorities there said landslides could become a problem Sunday as the state copes with more rain following days of flooding.
The severe weather also closed roadways across the region. Flash flooding reported in New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury and other Connecticut towns left many roads impassable. In northern New Jersey, some roads were closed Sunday as crews worked to repair stretches of concrete that buckled under heavy rain and flooding.
Extreme precipitation has already increased in recent years due to human-caused climate change, and the northeast is expected to see more sudden, intense rainstorms in the coming decades.
With reporting from The Associated Press and the State House News Service and WBUR's Kathleen Masterson.
This article was originally published on July 17, 2023.