UPDATED: Milford and surrounding areas were no longer threatened by strong storms late Wednesday night, as a tornado watch in place for Worcester County expired at 11 p.m, according to the National Weather Service.
For more than six hours Wednesday, Milford was part of a region that was under a tornado watch, or the more severe tornado warning.
The passing lines of storms brought torrential rain and lightning strikes to Milford, and caused some street flooding.
Gov. Deval Patrick at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday issued a state of emergency in Massachusetts, and asked people to stay off the roads. He was planning to visit communities in Western Massachusetts, hard-hit by a line of storms.
In Milford, the volatile weather unnerved many residents, and resulted in cancellation of after-school events for Milford Public Schools.
By 7:30 p.m., people were venturing out, and patronizing restaurants and other businesses, including , which had a steady flow of takeout customers and deliveries.
Earlier, the quick turn in the skies and temperatures sent many people scrambling for cover. At the , a small crew of employees watched the skies nervously. Anne Caggiano, of Milford, arrived at 5:45 p.m., having left her job a little early in Worcester to join her daughter, an employee of the Milford donut shop.
Caggiano's daughter, Nicole Patterson, had called her mother, apprehensive about the weather. Caggiano said the skies in Worcester were fearsome when she left. They soon would be in Milford, too.
"It was just dark, dark, dark, behind me," she said, of the drive to Milford. Worcester was among the many locations in central and western Massachusetts that had reports of tornadoes Wednesday.
When the weather turned bleak, as a line of storms approached, the donut shop lost its satellite TV. When small hail started falling, employees nervously looked out the windows. A family of four, including two children, decided to stop their commute home and stopped at the store, entering for shelter.
Employee Jen Mickel, 29, gave the kids some Munchkins. "They just wanted to be safe," she said, of the family, who did not want to be interviewed.
According to the National Weather Service, a tornado watch means conditions “are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. Persons in these areas should be on the lookout for threatening weather conditions and listen to later statements for possible warnings."
In the event of a tornado, the National Weather Service has advised the following:
In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.
In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands.
In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly.
In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast.
At school: Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building.
In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.