Remembering the tornado that struck Western Mass. 5 years ago Wednesday

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SPRINGFIELD -- Residents observed a moment of silence Wednesday on the fifth anniversary of the deadly tornado that struck Western Massachusetts in 2011.

Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno asked residents to pause and religious institutions to chime their bells at 4:38 p.m., the time the tornado touched down in Springfield.

"I'll never forget it. It was so hot and humid that day," recalled Sarno. "It was surreal in downtown, Main Street, the South End area. In this area of the city, our (electric) lines are underground so the buildings were shredded, destroyed, just really, some were demolished, but TV sets and lights were still on."

The EF-3 tornado touched down in Westfield and tore through West Springfield. It moved across the Connecticut River into Springfield on live TV.

The storm destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses on its path through Western Massachusetts. It destroyed Cathedral High School in Springfield.

It cut a path through Wilbraham, and Palmer and Monson, leaving three people dead and hundreds injured in its wake.

The storm eventually weakened when it got to Sturbridge, but left damaged trees and buildings as it crossed I-84.

The storm is ranked as one of the worst in New England, ranking up with the Hamden tornado of 1989, the Windsor Locks storm of 1979 and the tornado that killed over 90 people in Worcester in 1953.