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Kentwood Tornado Story No. 455: Tornadoes In Michigan

While not unusual, tornadoes in Michigan are pretty rare.

Michigan has averaged 16 tornados a year since 1991. Every state around us averages almost double that amount: Wisconsin 24, Iowa 51, Minnesota 45, Illinois 54. Indiana 22, Ohio 19 and so on. And Michigan has had two pretty big tornadic events since 1950.

The ninth largest tornado in terms of loss of life hit the Flint area in 1953. There were 116 people who died and more than 800 were injured.

On June 8, 1953, an F5 hit the Coldwater Road area. “The tornado virtually obliterated all homes on both sides of Coldwater Road for about a mile. It was there that the damage swath was over a half mile wide, and most of the deaths occurred. There were multiple deaths in at least 20 families. This was the last single tornado, as of this writing, to cause over 100 deaths in the United States.”

And the second tornado I remember was the Kalamazoo tornado of 1980. I lived through that. While only five people died, effect was still devastating.

For about 20 minutes, the landscape of the downtown area changed forever; 150-year-old trees in Bronson Park were ripped up; and the back of Gilmore’s Department store was ripped off. The new Kalamazoo Center had shattered windows. I was 10 years old and in fifth grade. My class was at a roller skating party in Portage at Long Lake roller skating rink. My Mom had to come pick me up, as it got really dark and the sirens were going off. Little did we know about nine miles away an F3 tornado was killing five people and doing $50 million worth of damage.”

Thank goodness no loss of life happened. It might not have been an F5, but tell that to the people effected.


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