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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Granite Valley Middle School in Monson -- June 17

42° 06' 35" N
72° 19' 11" W

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The EarthView team will mark the end of our third year -- and the departure of our graduating EarthView Wrangler -- at Granite Valley Middle School in the town of Monson. This will be our westernmost appearance this year, though we were only a few arc-minutes east of Monson when we visited Sturbridge at the beginning of this week.

As many people in our region now know, it was just two weeks ago that the town of Monson was among the  communities that suffered the most devastating property damage during the June 1 outbreak of tornadoes in western and central Massachusetts. Tragically, several lives were lost in the Springfield area, but good forecasting, communication, and cooperation prevented the human impact from being much greater. 

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View original and commentary at EarthSky
The impact of losing so many homes and public buildings, however, is quite serious. The Monson Public Schools have been an integral part of the effort to bring the community together around the recovery effort

Tornadoes occur rarely in Massachusetts, so when we were teaching EarthView audiences about the geography of tornadoes in April, we had no idea the subject would soon be so close to home. As reported on the EarthSky blog, NASA Landsat images reveal the scope of the damage, as a single path of heavy damage extends for a length of 39 miles, with a width up to a half mile.

For centuries, the physical geography of Monson has influenced its history. Located in a region of abundant rainfall and high topographic relief (range of elevation), Monson was an ideal location for industry during the age of water power. As early as the late 1600s, mills in Monson produced a variety of products, ranging from lumber and woolens to hats and rifle barrels. Below the surface, local granite has been sufficient for the construction of many public buildings in town, with enough leftover for use throughout the Northeast.

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