By Maria Lastoria
On Friday, August 18, on what looked to be a typical summer day on the South Shore of Massachusetts, a tornado touched down briefly in South Weymouth generating over 100-mile-an-hour winds toppling trees, blowing out windows, tearing off roof shingles, and hurling debris far and wide.
In nearby Norwell at The Cordwainer, a new assisted living memory care community, residents and staff were finishing up breakfast and preparing for a warm summer day filled with community activities, when tornado warnings blared loudly from everyone’s mobile telephone and television broadcasts were preempted by the National Weather Service urging people to take cover immediately.
Without missing a beat, our leadership team and staff sprang into action, quickly but calmly guiding all residents to the ground floor and center of the community, as far away from windows and doors as possible. This response was part of the community’s emergency preparedness plan, which outlines the duties and roles of every team member in the event of a fire, severe storm, or tornado warning. The team remained calm and cheerful, ushering residents to a central location while keeping family members updated.
“The Cordwainer staff was amazing. They had everyone safely moved to the ground floor in a matter of minutes. In one room they were holding mass and, in another room, residents and staff were dancing and singing along to hip-hop music,” said Jill Mullin, a resident family member who was visiting to have breakfast with her father.
Tornados are not new to New England, but they tend to be small and only touch down briefly, unlike the more spectacular ones common in the Midwest that can stretch up to a mile wide and stay on the ground for over an hour. The Weymouth tornado was the seventh one to touch down in Massachusetts so far in 2023, categorized as an EF-1 at “only” 100 yards wide and on the ground for a mere three minutes. Other tornados were reported in Foxboro, Mattapoisett, Barnstable, Stoughton, North Attleboro, and North Brookfield. There was quite a bit of damage to homes and downed trees in those areas, but no injuries were reported. Everyone at the Cordwainer fared well, and many of The Cordwainer’s residents didn’t even realize there had been a weather emergency.
“The safety of our residents and team members is always a top priority and we have emergency preparedness plans in place and conduct training exercises to ensure we are ready at a moment’s notice for any kind of emergency,” said Tamilyn Liesenfeld, who co-founded The Cordwainer with her husband, Bodo. “I was grateful and very proud of how our team used their training, stayed calm, and had every resident moved to the safest location in the community quickly and efficiently.”
Maria Lastoria is the executive director of The Cordwainer in Norwell. (www.cordwainermemorycare.com)