By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer

BOSTON (CBS) — While most folks were fast asleep early this morning, the atmosphere was wide awake and in a foul mood.

At 3:20 am, an extremely rare EF-1 tornado touched ground in Concord, Massachusetts. The tornado had winds of nearly 100 mph, and was on the ground for about a half a mile. Coming down first on near the Cambridge turnpike, the twister moved northeast and battered an area near Alcott and Independence roads in Concord. While it was only on the ground for a few minutes, the tornado managed to damage nearly 40 homes and take down numerous trees and power lines.

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(WBZ-TV graphic)

(WBZ-TV graphic)

Having read that, you’re probably thinking about those poor folks who had their homes and backyards torn up in the wee hours of the morning, it truly was a frightening few minutes. I agree, I cannot image a scarier scenario than being awoken by the sound of a freight train outside my house, scampering to the basement as the winds whip the landscape into a frenzy around your home.

Read: NWS Confirms Tornado Touched Down In Concord

(WBZ-TV graphic)

(WBZ-TV graphic)

But still, my lingering thought from this freakish event, remains one of optimism and of thankfulness. First of all, despite the damage left behind, I’d say those folks got real lucky last night. I am amazed that an EF-1 tornado touched down in a heavily-populated area in the middle of the night and yet no lives were lost and nobody was injured.

This is not a scenario we can relate to here in Southern New England. In fact, the last time we had a tornado touchdown in the middle of the night in our local area was way back on July 11, 1970. 46 years ago! That night, it was folks in Townsend who were rudely awakened by a tornado at approximately 2:15 a.m.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

(WBZ-TV graphic)

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So, no doubt, luck played a major role in what took place last night, perhaps even some divine intervention. Next time around, perhaps we won’t be so fortunate…or will we? While we don’t have tornado sirens here to wake us up and alert us to danger like they do in the Midwest, we do have a few things going for us.

Believe it or not, that thing you carry around in your pocket and incessantly look at all day may just be your life-saver someday. I don’t know about you, but I was woken up by my cell phone early this morning. I was informed of the Severe Thunderstorm Warning which was issued by the National Weather Service at 2:51 a.m., and then was alerted again when the NWS in Taunton issued a tornado warning at 3:01 a.m. My own private tornado siren, right on my nightstand.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

(WBZ-TV graphic)

That alert only happens because our local branch of the National Weather Service–along with our SKYWARN spotters–monitor radar and conditions 24/7. Imagine that lead time. They warned of a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado at 2:51 a.m. and then 10 minutes later, warned again of a radar-indicated rotation (funnel cloud/possible tornado). This was a full 20-30 minutes ahead of the actual reported touchdown in Concord.

Not only did this give folks in the warned area time to get to the basement, but you literally could wake the entire house, grab your pets, tell your neighbors and, heck, even grab the fish tank before heading to safety. I cannot stress enough how impressive and important that is.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

(WBZ-TV graphic)

Many times we get tornado warnings and (thankfully) the rotation never touches ground. I have heard many complain about these incessant warnings, but I say they are vital and save lives.  Nothing can be more important than getting to safety when a potentially life-threatening tornado or weather event may be occurring–no TV show, no video game, not even finding Pokemon himself.

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A day like today should serve as a reminder to all of us to respect mother nature and not to take severe weather lightly. One day, your local meteorologist, or even your smartphone, may just save your life.