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May 13, 1980: I Remember the Kalamazoo Tornado [Video]

I grew up in Kalamazoo. I remember the day a tornado barreled through downtown Kalamazoo: May 13, 1980.

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.

A couple of years ago, I did a post on this “West Michigan Weather – I Remember the Worst Weather Event In West Michigan History” This line from the story rings so true.

The destruction brought the community together and started a new catch phrase that’s still used to describe the city today: “Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo.”

And since I wrote that story, a couple of great home videos were uploaded to YouTube showing the tornado hovering right over Michigan Avenue, then another showing the first hand destruction. Watch these new videos and enjoy!

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